It will hardly come as a surprise to find that the UK throws away about £43 million of food a year. However, a new report from INCPEN, the Industry Council for research on Packaging & the Environment, provides valuable detail of what is actually being wasted.
The figures contained in the report “Checking out Food Waste” are based on actual data from retailers – most previous studies have been estimates based on small samples.
And on the principle that what gets measured gets managed, this should open the way for supply chain measures to reduce the amount food waste.
Top of the list of waste in the study was delicatessen chicken – some 4,200 tonnes of it – followed by 3,500 tonnes of bananas and 2,400 tonnes of bread. Mushrooms, strawberries and grapes all came high up in the list.
The highest proportions of waste came from deli products such as ham, turkey and chicken along with fresh fruit such a cherries and raspberries.
The report shows that almost three quarters of food wasted occurs at the household level. However wastage in the supply chain also needs to be addressed.
INCPEN director Jane Bickerstaffe points out that few packaged products appear in the top 20 so it might be worth exploring the possibility of packaging more foods that are currently sold loose.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that different retailers have different levels of wastage for the same products.
Clearly there is scope for retailers to learn from each other to reduce waste in the supply chain.