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UK 'throws away more food than any other country in Europe'

UK 'throws away more food than any other country in Europe'

UK 'throws away more food than any other country in Europe'

New research has named and shamed the UK as the EU country with the worst track record when it comes to food waste.

Published last Wednesday (August 12th) in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study - which was carried out by a team of scientists from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission - looked at the amount of uneaten food thrown away by six EU member states between 1996 and 2005.

Between them, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania were found to waste a staggering 22 million tonnes of food per year, or 16 per cent of the food products that reach consumers.

Of these, the UK was the single worst offender. Every day, Britons throw away the equivalent in weight of one can of baked beans per person, the JRC found. In comparison, Romania - which turned out to be the EU's least wasteful country in terms of uneaten food - created the equivalent in weight of one apple in refuse per person per day.

Nonetheless, Davy Vanham, the lead researcher on the project, remained optimistic that zero avoidable food waste is "theoretically … a possibility for EU consumers".

"This would not only save a lot of money for the consumers themselves, but also for local authorities, which have to pay for food-waste collection and treatment," he added.

"In addition, this would not only save a large volume of water and avoid losses of reactive nitrogen, but it would also preserve other natural resources such as phosphorus, land and energy."

The study found that fruit, vegetables and cereals were the food products most frequently wasted by the six countries - items that either have a short shelf-life or a cheap and therefore tend to be overpurchased. However, it was meat that was shown to be most wasteful in terms of lost resources - a finding that chimes with previous research revealing that livestock creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the world's cars, planes, trains and ships combined, news portal Edie.net noted.

Though the distinction was not made in the JRC study, beef and lamb are known to be the most resource-intensive meats, having five times the climate impact of pork and poultry.

Past data has suggested that achieving zero avoidable food waste in the UK and EU is contingent on efforts in the home and supply chain. According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, the country's seven major supermarkets - which sell almost nine-tenths (87.3 per cent) of its groceries - contribute to just 1.3 per cent of all food waste.

The remainder occurs once the food has reached the consumer, or else in the supply chain before it arrives at the supermarket.

If your business deals in food and drink, have you taken steps to reduce avoidable waste in the production process? Moreover, could your own diet at work have a harmful environmental impact?

 

Posted by William Rodriguez