Food Waste Report Reveals Why We Bin 4.2 Million Tonnes Of Food Each Year

'There is now no stigma attached to throwing food away.'

05/09/2016 17:09

Households are generating 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food waste in the UK each year, and our new-found “foodie” habits may be to blame.

A report from Sainsbury’s studying the food waste patterns of 5,000 people found that our love of experimenting with ingredients is causing us to be throw food away.

The majority (86%) of us admit to buying ingredients for one specific recipe, knowing we will struggle to use them again.

What’s more, only 3% of us think there’s a stigma attached to throwing food away.

Our desire to follow the latest food trends isn’t the only reason we’re packing our cupboards with unnecessary products. 

The report also outlined four key influencers driving our wasteful habits: 

1. Awareness

The report found that people are not aware of the potential savings they would make with simple behaviour changes such as meal-planning or writing a shopping list.

A total of 70% of us don’t believe that list-writing could save us money, and yet those who do write a list spend £145 less on food annually, than those who don’t.

In addition, the majority of Britain’s shoppers believe that only 10% of their monthly food budget will be spent on avoidable food waste, which equates to £400 per year. However, in reality this figure is £700 for the average family.

Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

2. Behaviour 

When it comes to food waste in the UK, people think they know what they’re doing. However, the report found a disconnect between the knowledge people claim to have and their actual behaviour.

Almost all (95%) respondents claimed to be confident in freezing food, while 74% believe they are confident cooking meals from leftovers. And yet, nearly two fifths (37%) of people admit to not using their leftovers, despite those who do saving £260 per year.

Meanwhile, other money-saving habits have become the norm, with 74% of people turning the lights off when they leave a room, promising a potential saving of just £15 per year.

A third of us have even changed energy supplier, saving an average of £200 a year, which is three and half times less than the annual cost of a family binning food.

3. Role Models

Despite the prevalence of food bloggers, chefs and foodie social media stars, when it comes to food waste we are lacking high-profile role models. Four in 10 (40%) people admitted they do not know who to look to for guidance on how to reduce their food waste.

What’s more, this figure grows steadily as it moves to younger generations; while only 12% of over 65s wish they knew more about managing and cooking food, nearly half (47%) of those aged 18-24 admit a lack of knowledge in the kitchen, demonstrating a need to inspire younger people when it comes to reducing food waste.

4. Society 

Over the years, food has become more accessible, and more experimental. This cultural shift is much more prominent in those under 35, with more than half (55%) of millennials identifying as ‘living-to-eat’ rather than ‘eating-to- live’. This falls to a third (33%) amongst those over 35.

But desire to explore the latest foodie trends is also contributing to food waste. A total of 86% of us admit to buying ingredients for one specific recipe, knowing we’ll struggle to use them elsewhere.

Considering the figures, it’s perhaps not that surprisingly that only 3% of people feel there’s a stigma attached to binning food.


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Reflecting on the report, Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe, said: “We know our customers are concerned about food waste in their own homes, which is why we’ve committed £10 million to help tackle the issue as part of our Waste less, Save more programme.

“Wasting food has become so normal, there is now no stigma attached to throwing food away. This report identifies the four behaviours that drive household food waste and, now we know these, we can focus our efforts on helping people actually change their behaviour.

“The report also shows that people are cost-conscious and making concerted efforts to turn off lights and minimise energy use.

“However, people are still overlooking the much bigger savings that could be delivered by simply throwing away less food, and hopefully our campaign will help people waste less food and save more money.”

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