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Where is food wasted outside of the home?

Retailer cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables, promotional money-saving offers, and the hospitality sector cause food waste
Fact and Fiction intersecting and spelled out in scrabble letters
© EIT Food

Food waste doesn’t just occur in the home, it happens outside too. Below we question where the problem areas are and what is being done to limit the amount of food waste.

Do promotional offers increase the amount of food we waste?

Promotional offers such as ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ (BOGOF) or multi-buy (eg, 2 for 1, or 3 for 2) have been blamed for encouraging us to buy more than we actually need leading to waste. So next time you see one of these offers, be aware of them and make sure you have a plan for making the most of the extra.

However, supermarkets also offer discounts on food that’s close to its expiry date (usually marked with yellow stickers). In contrast to promotional offers, buying these discounted goods can help prevent waste, as the supermarket would otherwise have had to throw it away (as long as you consume it of course!).

Wasteless is a company that’s developed dynamic pricing software to help retailers adjust prices according to the food’s remaining shelf life.

What percentage of fruit and vegetables is rejected by UK supermarkets before reaching the shelves?

Retailers set cosmetic standards that their suppliers must meet for produce such as fruit, vegetables and tubers (potatoes, for example). An estimated 20-40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops.

The figures for different items vary: apples 5-25%, onions 9-20%, and potatoes 3-13%, all rejected on cosmetic grounds.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that even small changes, such as a 2mm change to potato specifications, could reduce waste by 15%.

Retailers’ standards have resulted in criticism of a practice that discriminates against food that’s perfectly fit for human consumption and nutritious. However we, as consumers, must be prepared to buy and eat imperfect produce or the waste is just pushed further along the supply chain.

Where does most waste occur in the hospitality sector?

Food waste in the UK’s hospitality and food service sector accounts for 920,000 tonnes of food each year, of which 75% is avoidable and could have been eaten.

Most of the waste is at the food preparation stage (45%) due to cooking mistakes, preparing too much or inefficient practices. 34% of the waste comes from leftovers on customer plates and 21% is due to spoilage (damage to products or ‘use by’ dates exceeded).

The amount wasted is the equivalent of one in every six meals served. Potatoes, bread, pasta and rice make up 40% of the total. Initiatives such as providing flexible portion sizes, flexible menu choices and offering the option to take uneaten food away will all help to reduce this waste.

What is the target for food waste in the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 is ‘by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses’.

According to Champions 12.3 (a voluntary global coalition), “this is an ambitious yet achievable target with the potential to embed the reduction of food loss and waste firmly in public and private sectors. It’s a truly global target; although solutions may differ between developed and developing countries, every region has a role to play.

“Achieving this target is a ‘triple win’: (1) Reductions in food loss and food waste can save money for farmers, companies, and households; (2) Wasting less means feeding more and (3) reductions alleviate pressure on climate, water, and land resources.”

When is International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste?

The United Nations has designated 29 September as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW).

The goal is to raise awareness of the importance of the problem and its possible solutions at all levels, and to promote global efforts and collective action towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3.

The first IDAFLW was in 2020 and it was marked by the FAO issuing a call to action for public authorities, the private sector (farmers, companies, consumer organisations, other non-governmental organisations) and individuals worldwide to promote, use and scale-up innovation and technologies to tackle the problem of food loss and waste.

© EIT Food
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From Waste to Value: How to Tackle Food Waste

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