One of the most threatening issues, to water use, greenhouse gas emissions and food poverty, is food waste, a chronic problem gripping the UK and having catastrophic effect on our planet, communities and finances. The EU collectively throws away 89 million tonnes of food every year and the UK are one of it’s biggest culprits. Did you know that 40% of all British crops are thrown away because of their size or shape? Here’s everything you need to know about our food waste crisis and the industry pioneers that are doing their bit to make a difference!
In 2015, we wasted 7.3 million tonnes of food, costing us a staggering and futile £13bn. Out of these millions of tonnes, incessantly pumped into our landfills, 4.4 million was completely unnecessary and avoidable. In 2016, that number jumped to 10 million tonnes, seven million of which was waste by households, 1.7 million by the manufacturing sector, 0.9 million by the hospitality sector and 0.25 million by the wholesale sector, including supermarkets. What cost us £13bn in 2015, cost us £17bn in 2016, £12.5bn of which was the cost to households, with the average family spending £470 a year on food they didn’t eat. In the UK, 8.4 million families (the equivalent of the population of London), struggle everyday to put dinner on the table and yet food waste is still rife. A shocking half of these 8.4 million families regularly go a whole day without a single piece of food.
With millions of starving people in the world and populations in most countries rising rapidly, so much needs to be done if we want to reduce the global impact that food waste has. The government have funded huge campaigns, such as Love Food, Hate Waste, to reduce food waste and increase awareness but they’ve all shown rather disappointing statistics. Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second biggest supermarket, removed all their multibuy options last year to discourage their customers from buying unnecessary amounts of food. However, in order for things like this to make a difference on a large scale, it’s important that local authorities, supermarkets and manufactures join forces.
Until this happens, we look towards those in the industry who are creating innovative and pioneering solutions to our out of control food waste problem. From zero waste restaurants, websites and apps for the redistribution of surplus food, and companies creatively turning excess food into products, they are doing what they can to salvage some of the damage…
Food waste apps
With a motto and a mission to ‘rescue food’, Swedish startup Karma is now helping people in the UK to do exactly that, and recover food that is going to waste, with the use of their simple app. With over 1,000 cafes, restaurants and supermarkets posting food at a discounted price on Karma, you can search and pay for it on the app before picking it up in person. Your profile will show how many kilograms of CO2 you’ve helped to reduce and how many kilograms of food you’ve rescued!
OLIO encourages it’s users to ‘join the food sharing revolution’, on their handy app that connects neighbourhoods, communities and local shops so that it’s users can share excess food at the tap of a button. Well over one million portions of surplus food have been shared so far thanks to OLIO and with over 600,000 users, it’s a growing revolution!
Made from surplus food
If you’re conscious about food waste and want to support the use of surplus food to make new products, then these are the sustainable brands to look out for on your next supermarket trip…
We love the delicious and sophisticated flavours of houmous by ChicP, made exclusively from raw excess vegetables. Pioneering Hannah and her team are tackling food waste head on whilst encouraging wholesome, nutritious eating. ChicP’s most popular flavours include Sage, Carrot & Ginger, Horseradish and Beetroot, so grab a wonky carrot stick and dip away to join the fight! Did you know that you can also book ChicP for event catering?
Make a delightful addition to your cheese and crackers with the tasty chutneys, relishes and sauces from Rubies in the Rubble, who make all their product from fresh fruit and veg that’s about to be needlessly thrown away. Buy online or head to establishments such as Whole Foods, Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason to get your hands on these ‘condiments with a conscious’. From Banana Ketchup and Blueberry BBQ sauce, to Pink Onion & Chilli Relish, you’ll love their sustainable range!
Encouraging us to ‘join the fight with every bite’, Snact make banana bars and fruit jerky from perfectly fresh and tasty produce from wholesale markets that’s going to be binned. In addition, this super sustainable company make all their plastic-free packaging from home compostable materials.
‘Give wonky fruit a chance’ with Get Wonky, who take surplus fruit (mostly misshapen apples) and turn them into fresh bottled juices. The UK throws away four million apples every day, but Get Wonky are saving as many of those as they can to turn into juice that’s totally free from gluten and additives. Their bottles are 100% recyclable glass, so you can enjoy sustainable packaging too!
Did you know that the UK collectively throws away 24 million slices of bread every day, which is a huge 44% of all the bread we produce? Toast decided to tackle the issue head on and started making pale ales, IPAs and craft lagers from excess bread and have so far saved 9000 kgs of bread from landfill, brewing over 100,000 litres of beer! All of Toast’s profits are given to Feedback, an environmental charity whose goal is to half food waste by 2025.
Food waste charities
Did you know that over 870,000 children in England go to bed without dinner every single night because their parents can’t afford to feed them? FareShare is the UK’s biggest food redistribution charity and they’ve so far saved over 13,500 tonnes of excess food from being thrown in the bin. They rescue food and distribute it to various community groups and charities across the country, who turn it onto children’s breakfast clubs, meals for the elderly and donations for domestic violence refuges, rehab units and homeless shelters. Last year, they provided enough food for a staggering 36.7 million meals!
FoodCloud is an app that allows supermarkets to notify over 7000 charities when they have surplus food that they need redistributing. The charity then has the chance to pick up the food and turn it onto meals or donations to those in need. So far, in Ireland and the UK, they’ve helped save over 12,000 tonnes of food, which is over 27 million meals!
Another innovative project that is doing its bit for food waste, is The Real Junk Food Project, a concept created in Leeds in 2013. Today, there are 125 Real Junk Food sharehouses and cafes around the world, creating meals for the general public from surplus food. Their warehouse in Leeds alone often has 10 tonnes of food coming through it’s door every single day. Looking for a door-to-door collection for your excess food? The Felix Project does just this, collecting food and redistributing it to various charities around the country, providing over one million meals each year for those who need them.
If you’re consciously trying to reduce the amount of food you waste, but still enjoy eating out at great restaurants, then here are our suggestions for you: Farmacy (W2), Gourmet Goat (SE1), Cub (N1) and Tienda Roosteria (EC2A).
By Digby Vollrath, CEO and co-founder of catering company Feast It