Food waste and its connection with the climate crisis

Most UK consumers are familiar with the idea of food waste. They know that wasted food adds to the cost of their shopping. But they are unaware of, or don’t think about, the connection between it and the climate crisis. 

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reports that 4.5 million tonnes of food gets thrown away each year in the UK. 25% of this is food that is over-catered. Food that is prepared, cooked and served but not eaten. This waste costs UK households £3.5 billion a year.

At a time of financial crisis, it is important for us to tighten our belts and not waste food. But how often do we think about the impact of food waste on the climate crisis we are facing?

Love Food Hate Waste provides some startling facts about food waste in the UK. 70% of our food waste comes from domestic homes. UK households could save 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by not binning food. 

How does our food waste generate greenhouse gas?  The food we eat uses natural resources like land, water and energy to produce. The food has to be transported to stores for us to buy it. All of these agricultural and industrial activities cause emissions. If the food is then prepared and cooked, it uses more energy and causes more emissions. The wasted food costs us and costs the planet. 

WRAP’s food waste trends survey shows that our food waste habits have returned to the levels that they were at before the pandemic. They emphasise the fact that we changed our behaviour during lockdown and used less food, therefore we could do it again. Instead, the numbers of people who waste food more than they did before the pandemic have increased from 20% to 30%. 

What can we do to reduce food waste

As individuals we can make changes to our daily lives to reduce food waste. The good news is that small changes could add up to big savings for families. Love Food Hate Waste estimates savings of £720 per year and £60 a month, just by saving food from the bin. 

They have 4 simple tips to get started:

  • Plan meals ahead and shop for only what you need
  • Measure out your ingredients like rice and pasta so there are no leftovers
  • Keep leftovers in the fridge and then incorporate them into a new meal
  • Make sure your fridge is at the right temperature to save energy

Though they require more effort: growing your own, making meals from vegetable peelings and other foods considered ‘waste’, and going fully zero waste are also beneficial for the environment.  

If you are a food business in London, you might be interested in Bio Collectors. They are the largest food waste collector and recycler in the city. They use biogas powered vehicles to collect waste from businesses within the M25 area. The waste is recycled into electricity, fertiliser and biogas at an anaerobic digestion facility. 

Thinking about food waste in terms of the contribution to climate change might persuade you to reconsider your food management at home. If every person made small changes, they would add up.

Blue Patch is a community of like minded business who want to reduce consumption and waste. Join our sustainable business community to get free training on how to reach net zero and benefit from a networking opportunities.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.