Wasteland Britain: £4.47 billion worth of food thrown away each year

Press release - 1st September 2014

  • 9.2 million households waste on average £486 a year each, by throwing away unused food
  • Households wasting £9.35 worth of food each week - five per cent of weekly shop
  • Portion size is blamed as one of the leading reasons for food wastage
  • People in London are the biggest wasters, those in Yorkshire the least wasteful
  • People waste £93.69 each year on unused purchases such as clothing and electrical goods

A new study into the amount of food thrown away by UK households has revealed that as much as £4.47 billion worth of grocery shopping gets wasted each year across the country. Around 9.2 million households regularly throw away food that has past being edible; on average this equates to £486.20 a year or £9.35 each week.

The size of the portions being bought is cited as one of the leading reasons for waste, with 22 per cent of people saying that, on a regular basis, they open food but are unable to finish before it passes its ‘best before' date. A further one in ten people (9 per cent) say that as a single person, portions on sale are too big for the size of their meals, while 15 per cent say that they simply forget to eat food before it expires.

The ‘Need the Dough’ report, commissioned by savings and ISA provider Scottish Friendly, looked at how much people across the UK waste on food and what can be done to improve both the amount thrown away by British households and the savings that could be made through more savvy shopping.

One in five shoppers (20 per cent) say that they buy things on impulse and 15 per cent admit that they end up buying items that they do not need simply because they are on offer. Just 13 per cent of shoppers decide on the meals they are going to make and buy the appropriate groceries according to the menu.

Calum Bennie, communications manager at Scottish Friendly, commented:
"The total value of food being thrown away each week in the UK is simply staggering. In fact, it works out at more than the average mobile phone contract."

"Changing your spending habits in just a small way when grocery shopping, could have a dramatic effect on the amount of money you can save each month. The amount of money people have left over at the end of the month is often fairly low, so cutting down on waste could help and it might even allow people to put money aside regularly for a rainy day."

"Cutting back on food waste should start at the point of purchase. A well thought out shopping list is always a good place to start but also being careful before buying food that is on offer. While you may make an initial saving, you may not be able to get through it all before it goes bad and end up just throwing it away instead."

Top ten most wasted groceries:

  1. Bread
  2. Fruit
  3. Vegetables
  4. Salad
  5. Milk
  6. Yoghurt
  7. Cream
  8. Condiments
  9. Eggs
  10. Salad dressings

It may be unsurprising to some, but London tops the charts for being the area of biggest food wastage, where people ditch on average, 21 per cent of the value of their weekly shop. This compared to the people of Yorkshire that manage to keep their food waste down to just one per cent. Other areas that perform well are Scotland (two per cent) and Northern Ireland (three per cent), while also guilty of heavy food wastage is the North East of England (14 percent).

It’s not just food being wasted

The wasteful approach by some UK adults doesn’t just confine itself to food either. The report also looked at other commonly wasted products such as clothes and electrical goods. The results revealed that nearly half of people (47 per cent) had bought products in the last twelve months that they either did not need or did not use, costing them an average of £93.69 per person.

Of these people, one in five said that they had bought clothes that they had never worn or books that they had never read. One in ten (11 per cent) had spent money on shoes or accessories in the past year which have remained unworn and 15 per cent had splashed out on DVDs they have not watched.

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