The Problem with Food Waste

For me learning about plastic pollution ended up being the gateway to learning about other issues. Recently I’ve been trying to educate myself on food waste and why so much goes to waste. Honestly, I was astounded by the amount of food as well as money that goes to waste.

It’s easy to think that most of the food going to waste comes from the hospitality industry because surely we can’t waste that much at home right? Well, in most developed countries over half of all food waste takes place in the home and retail stores are responsible for less than 2% of total food waste. Crazy right?!

As I child I was told to eat everything on my plate and I’m pretty sure my mother used the starving children line once or twice. (She wasn’t wrong according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) there are 900 million hungry people worldwide). I also always had a Labrador in the house who were always more than happy to take care of any food that may have been going to waste. Since moving out and living in cities I’ve become more aware of the amount of food ending up in the bin, but surely food biodegrades and doesn’t take up space in landfill, doesn’t it? It turns out food takes a lot longer to decompose in landfill sites as they’re over-crowded and lack the oxygen and dirt needed for the process to occur.

One solution to this is composting your food. If you live in a city you can contact your council and ask them for a food caddy for your food waste and if you live in the country side you can bury your food waste or use a food compost bin (or get a Labrador!).

However, disposing of unwanted food is not the only issue here there is also the financial and environmental impact of producing and purchasing the food.

The annual value of the food wasted globally is $1 trillion. Closer to home, in UK household £800 per year is thrown away in unwanted food. Imagine what you could spend an extra £800 per year?!

“About two-thirds of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other one-third is caused by people cooking or serving too much.” How can we reduce this and save some money? Firstly, meal planning and shopping lists can help prevent impulse purchases and plan to use purchased food before it spoils. Cooking smaller portions and saving leftovers for the next day as well as taking home leftovers from restaurants will make meals go further and be better value for money. Utilising the freezer and fridge to help foods to last longer and understanding food labels can help us decide if something is still safe to eat.

‘’SELL BY” or “DISPLAY UNTIL” are used by retailers to track stock control.

“BEST BEFORE” relates to food quality but is not necessarily an indicator that the food is not safe after that date.

“USE BY” relates to food safety and food cannot be sold after this date.

I also recommend paying attention to your trash to see if there is something you commonly throw away that you could either cut back on the amount you buy or find a new way to use it up.

Not only does food waste have an impact on our wallets but also our planet as an area larger than China is used to grow all the food that is never eaten and 25% of the worlds fresh water supply is used to grow the wasted food. With the worlds population expanding, by 2050 food production will be required to increase by 60-70% this means more biodiversity loss as agricultural expansion continues into wild areas.

The production and transportation of food uses many resources such as water, land, energy, labour and capital as well as contributing to global warming and the climate crisis through greenhouse gas emissions.

In conclusion, food waste needs to be tackled on a larger scale and the production and distribution of produce needs to be reassessed. However as Individuals we can do our part to reduce our own food waste as much as possible. As with anything small changes add up to a bigger impact. Next time you’re doing your weekly shop pay attention to what you’re buying and see how much value for money you can get out of your shop.


1. Plan ahead and buy only what you need.

2. Plan to use up everything (and then use it)

3. Freeze food to prevent spoiling.

4.Let your bread breathe in cotton/linen bags, plastic will make it sweat.

5. Turn your peelings into stocks and soups.

6. Offcuts can regrow food eg lettuce and celery

7. Overripe bananas can be used for banana bread or smoothies.

8. Eat skins and seeds where possible.

9. Take Tupperware/food pot with you.

10. Learn from your trash.

Written by Sophie

Resources -

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All