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New insights help industry target household food waste reduction

30 June 2014

A report released by WRAP that provides new insights on how to reduce household food waste, can help industry target their activity and enable their customers to waste less and save money.

 The report highlights that two million tonnes of household food is discarded because it is not ‘used in time’, half of which is thrown away whole or in unopened packaging, costing consumers around £2.4bn a year.

In a third of cases (660,000t), passing a date label triggered disposal, while foods judged by consumers to have ‘gone off’ before they could be eaten (mouldy, stale etc) were responsible for most of the remaining 1.3 million tonnes. Significant progress is said to have been made around clarifying date labels and storage guidance to keep food fresher for longer, under WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, but the report states that the level of waste shows more needs to be done in these and other areas. 

This report explains how spreading best practice across a sector could lead to significant waste reductions. The dairy sector is an example, where their change from ‘use by’ to ‘best before’ for most hard cheeses could be applied to suitable yoghurts. This could help reduce the £130 million of yoghurts thrown away each year, saving consumers money and reducing the impact on the environment.
According to WRAP, using insight to target industry and consumer action is vital, and was hugely instrumental in helping to reduce household food waste by 21% from 2007-2012.  The new Household Food & Drink Waste: a product focus report builds on this by identifying new areas to tackle, through focusing on why and when food waste occurs. 

Three of the report’s main recommendations are:

  • Ensure packaging design and storage guidance help consumers keep food fresher for longer 
  • Maximise the length of shelf life and use a ‘best before’ date on perishable foods, where possible
  • Accelerate the roll out and increase public awareness of the ‘freeze before date mark’ label (replacing ‘freeze on day of purchase’).
David Moon, head of food sustainability at WRAP, said: "A significant amount of work has already been undertaken by the sector to introduce innovative approaches to keep food fresher for longer, but with 4.2Mt of edible food thrown away each year from the home, more needs to be done. These valuable insights will enable the food industry to target their interventions in the areas that will deliver the greatest reduction in food waste and save consumers money.”
Minister for natural resources and food in Wales, Alun Davies, said: "In Wales we have ambitious targets to reduce the amount of waste that we produce, and tackling household and commercial food waste are key to this. Resource efficiency not only brings environmental benefits, but the potential of real cost savings for businesses and consumers.”