Why Recycle Food?

Food waste doesn't harmlessly break down in landfill, it has a big impact on the environment

Avoid food waste

WRAP estimates that the food and drink sector accounts for 10 million tonnes of food waste each year. About 60% of this total could have been avoided.

By weight, household food waste makes up 70% of the UK post-farm-gate total, manufacturing 17%, hospitality and food service 9% and retail 2%.

Much of this food waste could be avoided and WRAP, Government and others are encouraging and supporting all points in the chain to do more to reduce this figure substantially.

In addition to food ending up as waste, 710,000 tonnes of food surplus from manufacturing and retail is either being redistributed via charitable and commercial routes (47,000 tonnes in 2015), or being diverted to produce animal feed (660,000 tonnes in 2015).

Charities such as FareShare take excess food which is still good and would otherwise go to waste and redistribute food to those who have a need and this is done via charities and community groups.

Some have taken a Circular economy approach and come up with innovative ways to use food which would otherwise go to waste and turned it into an innovative and clever alternative. Toast Ale has taken bakery waste and turned it into beer.

Finally if food waste can be avoided, distributed to those in need or turned into alternative food sources then much of the food waste is collected and processed through Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plants and turned into energy source and a soil conditioner. This is much better than simply letting the food go to waste and ultimately to landfill.

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic matter such as animal or food waste is broken down to produce biogas and biofertiliser. This process happens in the absence of oxygen in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester.

Household Waste

A great deal of food waste happens in the household. We simply buy too much and allow the food to go to waste. This seems wrong when it costs so much money to buy food today and also when there are people who simply don’t have enough money to feed themselves.

Households are being encouraged to think more carefully about the food quantities they buy, how to use up food scraps and other ingredients and to avoid wasting food. If it is unavoidable then most of the UK now has access to food recycling systems which collect the food and then take it to be processed in AD plants. This is good but the best way to avoid food waste is to not allow it to happen in the first instance.

Retailers and producers are also doing much to try to reduce food waste in the supply chain. A great deal of this work is co-ordinated and encouraged through the Courtauld Commitment. This is a voluntary agreement between retailers and brands which works with Government and others to help manage initiatives to reduce food waste and make people aware of the issues as well as to achieve an overall goal to reduce waste in the supply chain.

Much has been achieved to date but there is still more that can be done by us at home and also through work to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain.