Did you know that around 24 million slices of bread are thrown out in the UK every single day? That’s a shocking statistic highlighted by the latest Love Food Hate Waste campaign, Use Your Loaf.
Today it prompted my own confessions on Twitter and local radio about how I used to hide my loaf in the bread bin and then forget to use it. These days, I am much more careful, consciously buying less, using half of the loaf as fresh bread and then freezing the rest. If you have a spare ten minutes, do visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.com and check out the tips from Great British Bake Off champion, Nancy Birtwhistle. especially all the wonderful things that she makes from stale bread.
With the UK’s annual food waste weighing in at 15 million tonnes, and households generating almost half of that, the issue is high on campaigners’ agendas. However, while we are encouraged to make greater efforts at home, what steps are being taken to reduce food waste in the food sector? Earlier in September, I attended the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum seminar to catch up with some of the initiatives that are taking place.
In the packaging sector we are increasingly seeing innovations such as vacuum packs, extending the shelf-life for meat products. Elsewhere, farmers are starting to use drone technology to detect problems with crops, helping to deal with issues earlier and prevent wasted produce. In manufacturing, processing lines are also being re-evaluated in attempts to reduce waste. Morrisons Farmers Boy is an example where a two-week evaluation in the pie room revealed simple solutions that could reduce waste by up to 56%. Many of these actions are arising through the work of WRAP, the same organisation that runs the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, working with industry members as part of a voluntary Courtauld Agreement to demonstrate different approaches to waste reduction.
In the retail sector Tesco was the first supermarket chain to instigate a food waste audit, which led to changes – including buying up unexpected flushes of produce from farmers, replacing BOGOFs with mix & match offers and redistributing surplus food via organisations such as FareShare to help people in need. More recently, Tesco extended the trials of its FoodCloud app, making it easier for managers to also pass on surplus food to FareShare from instore.
In recent weeks The Co-operative Food has also announced a commitment to donate its warehouse depot surplus food to FareShare, in order to divert food for over a million meals away from anaerobic digestion energy plants.
However, despite increasing action from retailers, only 2% of all food that is good to eat is donated for redistribution, which is why there is support from campaigners for a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill, recently introduced to the House of Commons by Kerry McCarthy MP. The Bill’s provisions include: requiring supermarkets to donate all unsold in-date food; large supermarkets and food manufacturers to disclose levels of food waste in their supply chains and supermarkets & food manufacturers to be required to reduce their food waste by at least 30% by 2025. It gets its second reading in January.
So although our society is taking strides to tackle food waste, it is clear that a lot more action is needed. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new TV series on waste, due to be broadcast on BBC1 this autumn, is expected to highlight many of these key issues and opportunities.
And back on the home front, things are about to get even more exciting. Sainsbury’s has just launched a £10m project to tackle household food waste and is seeking nominations for a UK town to test out its new project. That’s a great opportunity!
If you’re keen to get cracking on reducing your own food waste, take the Rubbish Diet’s new Food Waste Challenge, which launches on 1 October. www.therubbishdiet.org.uk