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Food Waste Blog


Food for thought


This month we’re looking at the scandalous stats around food that is thrown away every day in our homes and the food industry. 

Did you know that 250,000 tonnes of food are thrown away unnecessarily in the UK every year – that’s perfectly edible produce that is the equivalent to 650 million meals.  What’s more, food going into landfill creates seriously harmful greenhouse gases that are 28 times more potent than CO².

So why does so much food get ditched?  Let’s look at the home front first, with some of the key reasons we all throw away too much, and some practical ways to stop:

Over buying

A shopping list is the simple key to this one for all of us: make a list of exactly what you need and stick to it.  Keep an eye on quantity – it’s usually better to buy loose fruit and veg so you can choose exactly how much you need rather than buying a plastic bag of too many spuds.  This is another good reason for shopping at your local market or greengrocer if you’re lucky enough to have either of these great resources near you.

Random buying

No matter how many tempting 3 for 2 type offers you might encounter at the supermarket, don’t go ‘off liste’.  Plan meals, not just store cupboard replacements, so you come away with a logical trolley rather than an assorted collection of products.

Date stamp confusion

Many of us mistake the important ‘Use By’ date which covers perishable dairy, meat, fish and deli products and should always be followed, with ‘Best Before’ which indicates the date after which some products are still fine to consume but the quality might begin to be impaired.  For example, biscuits which could start to go stale but are still safe to eat. Many people throw away perfectly good eggs for this reason.

Fridge temp

If things seem to go off quickly in your fridge, check to see if it’s cold enough.  The temp should be somewhere between 0-5°C.

Can you guess the top 6 foods we throw away in the UK? The numbers are staggering:

BREAD – 20 million slices

TOMATOES – 1.2 million

BANANAS – 0.9 million

HAM – 2.2 million slices

MILK – 5.2 million glasses

POTATOES – 4.4 million

Whether you’re a home cook or running a catering enterprise there are easy ways to use up some of these excess ingredients.  Squashy tomatoes can go into soups, pasta sauces and stews; whizz up stale bread to make breadcrumbs and stash them in the freezer – you can use them from frozen; over-ripe bananas make brilliant banana bread, muffins or smoothies; and if you own a café, why not feature a hot chocolate special to use up surplus milk – there are some fantastic recipes around using organic dark melted chocolate, warming spices and the like.

On the commercial side of things, Green Tourism members might be interested to know that one of the biggest hospitality culprits are carbs at 40% of food waste, with potatoes (especially chips), bread, rolls and pasta all being left on plates and chucked in the kitchen bin.  So why not look at your portion sizes when it comes to side orders and audit your kitchen waste over a week.  See if a pattern emerges and cut back accordingly.

Overall, cafés, restaurants, hotels and street food outlets should all be Food Waste Aware, watching out for over-ordering from suppliers and over-prepping in the kitchen.  Some leftovers in the professional kitchen are probably inevitable however, and good quality excess food can be socially useful when redirected to emergency organisations. 

For more information and tips on how to reduce food waste, check out the Green Tourism Factsheet library and these links: