Social Justice

Almost 200,000 tonnes of food was wasted in the UK last year

The charity Wrap said it is "devastating" to see how much food still goes to waste when "so many people are struggling to afford the basis".

Food waste/ Image of landfill

Huge amounts of food that is not recycled may be sent to landfill where it rots. Image: Pexels

Nearly 200,000 tonnes of food was wasted in the UK last year, according to the latest figures – the equivalent of around 476 million meals.

Research shows the UK wastes enough food every year to fill Wembley Stadium eight times. Meanwhile, millions of people across the country are struggling to afford meals for themselves and their children.

Catherine David, of the climate action charity Wrap, which conducted the study, said: “It’s devastating to see how much food continues to be wasted from supply chains when so many people are struggling to afford the basics, and food redistributors say they can take more.”

Steps are being taken in the right direction, with a 16 per cent increase in surplus food being redistributed in 2021 – 106,000 tonnes. This food, which was given to charities and businesses, had a value of more than £330m. 

David added: “Whilst we welcome the increased amount of food being redistributed in the UK, we know there is a huge amount of good food – 200,000 tonnes of it every year – that could be feeding people. 

“Wasting food also feeds climate change, as all the resources taken to produce the food are thrown in the bin with it. We urge all food businesses and their suppliers to adopt our guidance on redistribution as a priority and help more food get to the people who need it. The surplus food is there, and there is so much more that could be saved at this difficult time for UK families.”

Wrap’s progress report revealed around 190,000 tonnes of food from the retail and manufacturing sectors was wasted last year. Even more food went uneaten in other parts of the supply chain, including in the hospitality and farming sectors. 

Food minister, Victoria Prentis, said: “Nobody wants to see good food go to waste. With a 16 per cent increase in surplus food redistribution in 2021 and more than 106,000 tonnes of surplus food redistributed, reducing food waste is a great example of what we can achieve when we all come together.”

Redistribution has more than tripled since Wrap first reported figures in 2015. An estimated 426,000 tonnes of surplus food worth more than £1.3 billion has been saved from wastage – the equivalent of more than a billion meals in six years.

Charlotte Hill OBE, of charity the Felix Project, said: “Now, in the face of a worsening cost of living crisis, it is even more vital that we work together to get food to our 1000 community partners across London and to maximise the social value of this surplus food.”

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