Households throw out £10bn of edible foodThe annual toll is one third of the food bought

08 May 2008

A person shopping for vegetables.

UK households are throwing out £10 billion-worth of edible food every year, a study revealed today.

The average household throws out one-third of all food bought, wasting £420 each year or £610 for those with children, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said.

The figure is £2bn higher than previously estimated, the report said.

Untouched

The government described the figures as 'staggering' and 'shocking'.

Researchers found that more than half the discarded food, worth £6 billion a year, was bought but left untouched.

5,500

Number of whole chickens thrown away each day in UK

Each day householders throw out 1.3 million unopened yoghurt pots, 5,500 whole chickens and 440,000 ready meals, according to the report.

Landfill

It found £1bn-worth of discarded products were still 'in date', and that local authorities were spending the same amount each year disposing of food waste.

Most of the wasted food went to landfill sites where it emitted methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Cutting food waste could limit carbon dioxide emissions by 18 million tons - the equivalent of taking one in five cars off UK roads, the report concluded.

'Staggering'

Environment minister Joan Ruddock said: 'These findings are staggering in their own right, but at a time when global food shortages are in the headlines this kind of wastefulness becomes even more shocking.

'This is costing consumers three times over. Not only do they pay hard-earned money for food they don't eat, there is also the cost of dealing with the waste this creates. And there are climate change costs to all of us of growing, processing, packaging, transporting, and refrigerating food that only ends up in the bin.

'Preventing waste in the first place has to remain a top priority.'

Packaging

Wrap chief executive Liz Goodwin said: 'Food waste has a significant environmental impact. This research confirms that it is an issue for us all, whether as consumers, retailers, local or central government.

'I believe it will spark a major debate about the way food is packaged, sold, stored at home, cooked and then collected when it is thrown out.

'What shocked me the most was the cost of our food waste at a time of rising food bills, and generally a tighter pull on our purse strings.

'It highlights that this is an economic and social issue, as well as about how much we understand the value of our food.'

Researchers interviewed 2,715 households in England and Wales and analysed waste from 2,138 of them.

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