Why do we throw away so much food?

Posted by Sainsbury's on 15 March 2016


It costs UK households millions of pounds annually and causes environmental damage, but did you know that most food waste in the UK is avoidable?  We reveal some interesting and surprising facts about food wastage in the UK.

According to recent research by environmental charity WRAP, an astonishing 15 million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away every year in the UK. Alarmingly, around half of this comes from our homes (the rest from businesses), yet much of this waste is easily avoidable.

According to WRAP’s study more than 4.2 million tonnes of our annual household food and drink waste can actually be eaten - including around 13 billion ‘five-a-day’ portions - if we’re a little more savvy about the way we shop for, store and use our groceries. 


To put these numbers into perspective, the average UK household throws away the equivalent of six meals per week at a cost of £60 a month. That’s a staggering £12.5bn a year nationally.

And food waste isn’t just bad for our pockets. It’s estimated that all this discarded food and drink accounts for 1.7 percent of the UK’s carbon emissions too.

Food production, distribution, storage and cooking all use energy, fuel and water. And each of these processes emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

It’s estimated that if we curbed avoidable food wasting habits, we would not only save money, but also save 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. That’s as good as taking one in every five motorised vehicles off the roads every year. Makes you think. 

It’s heartening to know that between 2007 and 2012, avoidable food waste was reduced by 21 million tonnes. But as a nation we’ve still got a long way to go if we want to bring our food and drink wastage levels down to a more economically and environmentally affordable level.

We can all make a difference by planning meals, serving the right portions and cooking with leftovers.


Main image via Shutterstock: Adisa

Like this? Then try these:

Food waste: what you need to know

Family Values

The Big Freeze