I don’t waste food… except…

Discussions about food waste tend to be accompanied by incomprehensibly large numbers…

  • 4.2 million tonnes – the amount of food UK  households threw away in 2012 which could have been eaten
  • £12.5 million – the cost of this food
  • 19,000 sq km – the amount of land used to produce this wasted food (equivalent to 91% of Wales)
  • 17 million tonnes – the amount of CO2 producing this wasted food produced (the same amount as 1/4 of the cars on our roads)
  • 24 million – the slices of bread discarded in the UK – every day
  • 1.4 million – the number of bananas wasted in the UK – every day

Have you ever wondered, like I have, who these people are, who throw away so much food?

So, I decided to do an experiment and take a look at my own bins. For a week I made a note of the forgotten carrots allowed to go mouldy, the spinach wilting in the fridge, the apples from my kids lunch-boxes where they’d taken a bite and decided they were too bitter, the half bottle of lemonade left over from a party that I’d really rather we didn’t drink.  Then I checked my food cupboard looking at use by dates…

I won’t bore you with the precise contents of my swill bucket, but suffice to say that it was far from empty at the end of the week and that I’ve got an answer to my question.  It is me who throws away food, and probably you too.

The real question then is what to do about this?  The trouble is when we discard food, it’s usually in small quantities.  We might feel a twinge of guilt at throwing away something that could have been eaten, but it’s quite easy to rationalise:  if something can’t be eaten, because we haven’t got around to using it, what option is there?  And it’s only a small amount in the scheme of things.  The guilt doesn’t last long.

So perhaps we need to start thinking in terms of some of those big numbers.  The next time you throw out half a bag of lettuce, ask yourself if it would be OK for every household in the UK to do the same.  That would be some mountain of lettuce.  Somehow it doesn’t seem so insignificant?


Statistics – Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK 2012, WRAP


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