Sarah Daly, of Don’t waste time, we need to Think.Eat.Save

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Written by:   | Posted 27-February-2013 9:06

Following the recent report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), The UN Environment Food Programme (UNEP) and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are launching a global campaign to tackle food waste.

The campaign, called Think.Eat.Save, is a call to action by consumers, food retailers, the hospitality industry and their supply chains, to dramatically cut the 1.3bn tonnes of food lost or wasted globally each year.

The critical factor here is that to be successful, change must be understood and owned at all stages of production and consumption.

Clearly there are many stages at which food is wasted from farm to plate, so the analysts at sustainability consultants Best Food Forward have delved further and produced an infographic to show where this waste actually occurs in the food production chain. This will allow a more informed debate and challenge everyone to look at how waste can be reduced at every stage.

Much of the popular media coverage following the IMechE report led on the headline shock figure that up to 50 per cent of edible food is never consumed; often accompanied by images of household bins teeming with domestic food waste.

This gives the impression the biggest issue is at consumer level when, as Best Foot Forward’s apple infographic shows – consumer waste is nine per cent of all edible food production globally and all the stages from production to retail account for 24 per cent – so there’s clearly culpability throughout the chain. Some nine per cent of all the food in production will be lost in this stage; seven per cent of all food in the post-harvest, handling, storage and distribution stage will be lost or wasted before it reaches the markets and six per cent each in the processing and market system/retail stages.

The largest single loss will be at consumption stage (households, restaurants, foodservice etc) where so much good food is thrown away due to a variety of reasons: overbuying, poor storage, lack of portion control, alternative uses for leftovers – the reasons are many and known and efforts are being made to motivate solutions.

There are clearly significant issues with household waste which must be addressed – especially in Europe and North America where per capita food waste is estimated at 95-115kg per year compared to six-11kg per year in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Southeast Asia.

The proportion of consumer waste in the UK is actually over 30 per cent. Indeed as the Think.Eat. Save. website explains: “United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32 per cent of all food purchased per year is not eaten.”

Eighty-eight per cent of food waste is currently collected by local authorities, even though it is estimated that as much as 61 per cent of that is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed.

Knowing that the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people is a very sobering statistic and one that should focus the minds of everyone who works in the food and associated sectors as well as consumers.

■ Please go to and comment or follow Sarah on twitter @sarahmygreeneye. Telephone 07818 888333 or email


UK households waste an estimated 6.7million tonnes of food yearly

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