Scottish households needlessly waste £1 billion of food each year

The most detailed study of its kind has highlighted the £1 billion of food needlessly thrown away by Scottish households each year.  This massive financial and environmental burden is described in a new report, The Food We Waste in Scotland, published today by WRAP Scotland.

2 Sep 09

The report reveals that Scottish households throw out 570,000 tonnes of food and drink each year, most of which could have been avoided if it had been planned, stored or prepared better.  This is a loss to the average household of £430 every year.  For families with children it is higher at £550 – a significant chunk of the family budget.

Launching the report, Iain Gulland, WRAP Director for Scotland said:

“This new research shows the massive financial and environmental burden of food waste.

“Scottish households are throwing out huge amounts of food, most of which could have been eaten, and this costs us dearly.  Not only are we paying for this food at the checkout, we are also paying to dispose of it through our council tax.  This is a terrible waste in these difficult economic times.”

Based on a survey of 1,169 homes across Scotland, the most common items thrown away were milk (31,000 tonnes), sliced bread (25,000 tonnes), fizzy drinks (23,000 tonnes), potatoes (19,000 tonnes) and ready meals or snacks (14,000 tonnes).

In addition, 96,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables were binned.  If these had been eaten, they could have contributed 1 billion portions of our recommended 5-a-day intake.

Half of the good food thrown out for council collection was whole and uneaten, with one in seven items still in their packaging.  At least £18 million worth of the latter was still within its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date.

Collecting and disposing of food waste costs councils an estimated £85 million a year.  The environmental cost is also high as a result of all the energy involved with producing, transporting, packaging and storing the food, and as a result of methane, a damaging greenhouse gas, emitted from the wasted food rotting in landfill sites.  If this avoidable food waste had been consumed it would prevent the equivalent of 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year – roughly the same as taking one car in every four off Scotland’s roads.

Commenting on this ground-breaking report, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“I'm sure most people would agree that it's shocking to think that society needlessly wastes £1 billion of food each year in Scotland. As well as the financial strain on households, the equivalent of £8 to £10 a week, food and packaging add considerably to our waste stream.

“Food waste is one of many issues currently being addressed in the Government’s draft Zero Waste Plan, which I would urge people to have their say on. The Plan is about everyone making smarter day-to-day choices that will take us further down the road towards becoming a zero waste society.”

Dr Nicki Souter, Zero Waste Scotland Campaign Manager, added:

“This report being so detailed truly shows the public how much food is currently wasted in Scotland. The reasons we waste are food are that we cook or prepare too much or we buy things and then don’t use them in time.

There are many small changes householders can make to the way they manage their food, which can dramatically reduce their food waste and put that money back in their pocket, for example, planning food shopping and storing food correctly. The Love Food Hate Waste website: offers a host of hints, tips and simple recipes to enable people to make the most of the food they buy.”

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