I was interested to learn yesterday that more than 60% of the food waste at the venue for next week’s ISSA Show - which happens to be the largest convention centre in North America - is donated, composted, or used to generate renewable energy. Along with many other steps the facility’s taken to improve sustainability, this appeared pretty impressive, but then I pondered over what happens to the remainder and why it’s not being put to good use too. I know in the UK (or where I live, anyway) we’re asked not to pour liquids into our food waste bins so perhaps that’s the answer?
The latest UK figures show that the amount of food saved from becoming waste thanks to its redistribution continues to rise significantly – up 16% in 2021 from 2020’s figures, with more than 106,000 tonnes of surplus food worth more than £330 million, (the equivalent of 253 million meals) redistributed via charitable and commercial outlets. Redistribution has more than tripled since climate action NGO WRAP, which monitors UK surplus food as part of its food waste prevention work, first reported figures in 2015. An estimated 426,000 tonnes of surplus food worth over £1.3 billion has now been saved from wastage - the equivalent of more than a billion meals in six years. Sadly, however, each year nearly 200,000 tonnes of perfectly good food in the supply chain still goes to waste - enough to fill Wembley Stadium eight times every year. I find this incredible, considering the price rises we’re currently having to endure!
Catherine David, director of collaboration & change at WRAP, agrees: "It's devastating to see how much food continues to be wasted from supply chains when so many people are struggling to afford the basics, and food redistributors say they can take more,” she says. “Whilst we welcome the increased amount of food being redistributed in the UK, we know there is a huge amount of good food that could be feeding people. Wasting food also feeds climate change, as all the resources taken to produce the food are thrown in the bin with it."
I must admit that I’d never previously considered the impact made in the food production, packaging and distribution process when contemplating food waste, which Catherine refers to here. Adding that to the mix only makes me more ashamed that despite all the technology we have at our disposal and the fact that people throughout much of the developed world may well soon be struggling financially – if they’re not already – we seem unable to properly get to grips with the issue.