Food waste is an issue that needs to be addressed in the UK. Every year we throw away 9.5 million tonnes of food and much of that winds up in landfill sites. So what can be done to reform our approach to food waste?
Identifying the sources of food waste
When we think of food waste, our first thought might be of the fresh food that we bought from the supermarket that we didn’t get around to eating before it spoiled. But a substantial amount of food waste is generated way before it reaches the end consumer. Food waste is produced at every stage in the process
- Agriculture. Sometimes more food is produced than there is market demand for. Resulting in “lakes” of milk and “mountains” of fresh produce rotting on the farm where they were produced.
- Preparation. Many foodstuffs are commercially prepared in a factory with trimmings from this process contributing to the figures for food waste.
- Packaging. Plastic wrapping is supposed to protect food from spoiling, but recent research suggests that it encourages overpurchasing increasing the problem of wasted food.
- Shipping. Spoiled food from delays in shipping haulage is a huge problem that nobody is tackling. An article on the Al Jazeera website quoted this fact in relation to shipping waste: “About 1.3 billion tons of global food production is lost before reaching consumers’ plates every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.”
- Retail outlets. Supermarkets like their produce departments to look full and inviting. Fresh produce is featured at the store entrance. But a lot of waste is generated by keeping those shelves overflowing.
Long story short, you don’t need to feel too bad about throwing away that bag of wilted salad.
Sainsbury’s recently announced that they would be selling crownless pineapples - pineapples with their proud head of spiky leaves removed. As the purchaser throws away this inedible part of the plant before consuming, the supermarket claims that this will lead to a reduction in UK food waste of some 700 tonnes. The crowns will be removed at the country of origin where they can be composted, used for animal feed or even regrown into more pineapples. There will also be a positive impact on shipping expenses (and therefore carbon emissions) with extra space for more pineapples per crate.
End-consumer food waste
Preventing end-consumer food waste from entering landfill is first and foremost an infrastructure problem. Around 50% councils still don’t offer a separate food waste collection. Government edict has announced this will change from early 2026, at which time new rules will come into effect requiring councils (with a few exceptions) to supply a food waste bin and kerbside collection service.
The second problem is educating people to make sure they put their food waste in the correct bin.
There’s lots that can be done at every stage to reduce the amount of food waste that winds up in landfill. There probably is no perfect solution as there will always be glut and shortage and human error to account for - but it is only sensible to reduce food waste wherever we can and to compost whatever we do waste.
At WT Skips, we take our recycling responsibilities extremely seriously, the waste we collect is sorted and disposed of as ecologically as possible with only the barest minimum being consigned to landfill. If you need a skip and you’re in our catchment area, call or book online.