WASTING FOOD FEEDS CLIMATE CHANGE: Food Waste Action Week launches to help tackle climate emergency

Cook, TV presenter and author Nadiya Hussain has joined environmental charity WRAP for the UK’s first national week of action to tackle household food waste and drive home the message, Wasting Food Feeds Climate Change. Running from 1-7th March, Food Waste Action Week is being delivered through WRAPs well-known Love Food Hate Waste brand to mitigate the devastating impact food waste has on the planet.

When it comes to food waste at home, UK households produce around 70 per cent of the UK’s 9.5 million tonnes of food waste every year. To tackle this, Love Food Hate Waste and Nadiya will ask people to take part in the Food Waste Action Challenge to make sure no edible food ends up in the bin. The Cook, TV presenter and author will spearhead a week of activities offering tips and tricks to cut waste, simply.

In total, a staggering 6.6 million tonnes of food waste comes from our homes each year in the UK, at a cost of £14 billion. Of that, 4.5 million tonnes is food that could have been eaten, which works out to around eight meals per household each week. This ‘edible’ element of household food waste is responsible for 14 million tonnes of CO2e alone – as much greenhouse gas produced as flying from London to Perth more than 4.5 million times.

Globally, around a third of all food produced is lost or wasted, which contributes between 8 and 10 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Nadiya Hussain, cook, TV presenter and author comments, “Being at home more this last year has given many of us – including myself – an opportunity to reassess our relationship with cooking. Most of us don’t realise it, but wasting food is a major contributor to climate change. And it isn’t just the leftovers on our plate to consider but the many resources that go into producing our food, like water and land.

“If we each make small changes we’d dramatically reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin, and really can make a difference. From avoiding buying or preparing too much to storing food correctly, Food Waste Action Week is about helping people make the most of their food, and through our actions – help protect our planet.”

Public awareness of the impact of food waste has on climate change is less common than other environmental factors. Recent WRAP research found that whilst 81% of people in the UK are concerned about climate change, less than a third (32%) see a clear link between it and food waste. This compares with over half who make the link with aviation and climate change. In fact, global food waste produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all commercial flights.

However, according to 2020 WRAP research on the UK’s food habits during lockdown, being confined to our homes has resulted in an increase in behaviours such as batch cooking and meal planning, which help tackle food waste. But the latest insights suggest that food waste levels are likely to rise again as we emerge from lockdown.

Food Waste Action Week aims to empower people to make simple changes in how they manage their food to avoid it being wasted. Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP “Climate change is happening now and is the greatest threat to our planet, and our future generations. We must act, fast. Wasting food has a huge contribution to global emissions but is often overlooked or ignored. We are so used to wasting food that we’ve forgotten its value, and the cost that feeding our growing global population has on the natural world. Food Waste Action Week is about empowering everyone to act because like it or not, we in our homes are the most significant part of the problem. So, it’s down to us all to be part of the solution too, and this is one environmental issue that we can all tackle, and with minimum effort.”

How simple changes can help fight climate change

  • 30% of global greenhouse gases come from producing our food, more than all commercial flights combined.
  • If food waste were a country, it would have the third-biggest carbon footprint after the USA and China.
  • If every UK household stopped wasting food for one day, it could do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 640,000 trees per day (around 230 million per year).
  • Almost 280 tonnes of poultry goes to waste in the UK every day, if we stopped wasting poultry, we could do the same for climate change as planting nearly 6.6 million trees every year.
  • We throw away the equivalent of 3.1 million glasses of milk every day. If we used every drop, we could do the same for climate change as planting nearly 6 million trees per year.
  • Every day 4.4 million potatoes go to waste in UK homes. If we all stopped wasting these potatoes it could do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.4 million trees per year.
  • 20 million slices of bread are thrown away at home in the UK every day. If we stopped wasting bread, it could do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.3 million trees per year.
  • 70% of food waste (post-farm gate) in the UK comes from households. But the good news is everyone can make a difference.

To take part in the Food Waste Action Week Challenge, people will be encouraged to share their top tips on Instagram using #FoodWasteActionChallenge and @lfhw_uk – from storing food, using up leftovers and making sure none of it ends up in the bin. Food Waste Action Week has the support of all UK Governments and partner organisations across the UK. The campaign has forty strategic partners from retailers, food manufacturers, hospitality and food service businesses to local authorities and electrical manufacturers, who will organise special activities during the Week. These include Aldi, Asda, Co-op, M&S, Waitrose & Partners, Hellmann’s, Cravendale, Nestlé UK & Ireland, Hisense and the NFWI. More than sixty other businesses and organisations will amplify the Love Food Hate Waste messages during the Week.

Defra Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “Cutting food waste is not just about saving money. It is a vital part of the work we are doing to tackle climate change and protect our precious environment. Far too much food is thrown away, but we can take action to address this. Food Waste Action Week is a key opportunity to bring the whole food supply chain together, from farm to fork, to tackle this important issue.”

DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons said, “In Northern Ireland we have successfully diverted over 1,000,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste from landfill since 2015, but we know good food is still ending up in our bins causing harm to our environment and wasting precious resources. I am proud to support Food Waste Action Week, an innovative campaign delivered by WRAP, which will help to intensify the focus on preventing food waste and contribute to tackling climate change.  Importantly, the campaign will not just raise awareness but will also prompt action by providing practical guidance for people to avoid food waste and contribute to a better world for ourselves and future generations.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said, “As Wales looks to become a net zero nation, we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to consume, purchase and use products sustainably – and food is no exception. If we only buy the food we need, and eat all we have bought, we can help reduce our impact and be more sustainable across the board. As such, we very much support WRAP’s campaign, and look forward to continuing to bring down levels of food waste in Wales.”

Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, said, “Scotland’s target to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025 was the first of its kind in Europe. It is something we can all do to support our precious natural environment and tackle climate change. Inspiring change in how we purchase, consume and dispose of food waste is not an easy task but we must all do our bit to help the environment and reduce our climate impact.  I would encourage everyone to get involved with the Food Waste Action Week challenge and where possible, try new ways of stopping food going to waste.”

 Defra Food Waste Champion Ben Elliot said, “I am passionate about cutting food waste. It has a huge carbon footprint, particularly in terms of the amount of energy used for its production, manufacture, storage and often unnecessary disposal. Food Waste Action Week is a key vehicle for raising awareness amongst the public, the food industry and the retail sector about just how much food is wasted every year, the impact it has on the planet, and how we can all help to tackle it.”

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