Sustainable food

Written evidence written by WRAP

(the Waste & Resources Action Programme)

Executive Summary

1. This memorandum focuses on the value of food waste prevention and consumer engagement as part of the suite of measures which can help to improve the sustainability of food in the UK.

2. As set out in more detail below, food waste is a significant sustainability issue for the UK (and the world). In summary:

· The UK generates over 16 million tonnes of food waste every year, costing an estimated £22 billion a year;

· UK households throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink waste, worth over £12 billion, every year. Most of this is avoidable; preventing it could save the average UK family £680 a year.

· The climate change benefits of tackling food waste would be equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off the UK’s roads.

· The water footprint of avoidable food waste is 280 litres per person per day, approximately one and a half times the daily average UK household water use.

3. Food waste prevention can therefore deliver significant economic and sustainability benefits. WRAP has been working in partnership with others since 2007 to realise these benefits.

4. WRAP is the UK governments’ delivery body for waste and resource efficiency issues. Further information on WRAP’s role and remit is at Annex 1. Our evidence below covers the following issues:

· the nature and scale of UK food waste;

· why this matters: what the environmental impacts of food waste are, and how these can be reduced;

· what WRAP is doing with retailers and brand owners to make UK food more sustainable; and

· what WRAP is doing to help consumers make more sustainable choices about food.

5. Food waste prevention is a key priority in WRAP’s new Business Plan, which will be published shortly. This will set out our priorities for the next four years. On food waste, we want to:

· work in partnership with others across the retail supply chain to drive an increase in the scale and speed of action, building on our work to date.

· expand our food waste prevention work to new sectors, including the hospitality, tourism and public sectors, with a particular focus on helping SMEs to take action; and

· help consumers to reduce food waste both inside and outside the home, building on our successful Love Food Hate Waste programme.

6. We hope that this evidence will be of use to the Committee, and would be happy to expand upon it further in oral evidence if that would be helpful.

Response to the inquiry’s questions

7. The Committee’s call for evidence includes six questions. We have focused our evidence on the first and third of these.

Q1. How can the environmental and climate change impacts of the food we choose to eat best be reduced?

The global picture

8. Increasing the primary production of food is only one of the many strategies that will be required to feed nine billion people sustainably and equitably by 2050. The challenge is to achieve optimal results right across the food system. This requires that substantial inefficiencies across the entire food supply chain – from the farm gate to the point of consumption – are addressed. Some estimates suggest that as much as half of all food grown is lost or wasted before and after it reaches the consumer [1] , although there are significant uncertainties and gaps in our understanding of losses in the food supply chain across the globe. In low-income countries, where infrastructure for storage and supply are often inadequate, food losses are greatest in early post-harvest stages, whereas in high-income countries, the greatest losses are usually incurred by the consumer [2] .

The nature and scale of food waste in the UK

9. Food and drink is a valuable resource and yet the UK generates over 16 million tonnes of food waste every year, costing an estimated £22 billion a year (equivalent to 26% of the UK agri-food sector gross value-added). More than half of this comes from households, with a further 3.6 million tonnes from the combined food manufacturing, distribution and retail supply chain [3] . The total also includes approximately 0.9 million tonnes of food waste arising from the for-profit sector of hospitality [4] , although the amount of food waste arising in the rest of the hospitality sector is as yet unclear. Of the total amount, seven million tonnes of food waste reaches landfill [5] , [6] .

10. Most of the 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink waste UK households throw away every year is avoidable (5.3 million tonnes). It has a retail value of at least £12 billion [7] , and could have been consumed if it had been managed better.

11. There are many environmental, economic and health impacts associated with household food waste in the UK:

· Recent research, carried out jointly by WRAP and WWF, has found that t he water footprint of avoidable and potentially avoidable food waste [8] is 6.2 billion cubic metres per year , representing nearly 6% of all UK water requirements. In per capita terms, this is 280 litres per person per day, approximately one and a half times the daily average household water use in the UK (150 litres per person per day) [9] .

· We estimate that avoidable food waste is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of 20 million tonnes CO 2 equivalent per year ( accounting for the whole life cycle ) . Avoidable food waste repres ents approximately 3% of the UK’ s domestic greenhouse gas emissions, with further emissions from overseas components of the supply chain [10] . The climate change benefits of tackling food waste would be equivale nt to taking 1 in 4 cars off the UK ’s roads.

· The amount of avoidable food and drink wasted as a proportion of all food and drink purchased in 2008 was significant, with different types of food and drink wasted at different rates:

o 15% of all food and drink purchased was wasted;

o 17% of all food purchased was wasted;

o 32% of bread purchased was wasted;

o 24% of potatoes and vegetables purchased were wasted;

o 7% of soft drinks purchased were wasted; and

o 6% of alcoholic drinks purchased were wasted [11] .

· Analysis of the nutritional content of wasted edible food and drink shows that 16% of calories were wasted . Some nutrients wer e wasted much more than others ( e.g. carbohydrates at 20%, fibre at 23% ) [12] .

· Looking at fruit and vegetables, 24% of edible vegetable purchases and 20% of edible fruit purchases were wasted. This is equivalent to 0.8 of a portion of edible fruit and vegetables wasted per person per day. This equates to the loss of 17 billion ‘5 a day’ portions of fruit and vegetables each year [13] .

· Single person households wasted 22% of their food and drink purchases, and all other household types wasted 14% of their food and drink purchases.

· Preventing this food waste could save the average UK family £680 a year [14] .

· Local authorities spend over £300 million a year collecting and landfilling this waste.

12. Food waste prevention can therefore deliver significant environmental benefits, in terms of landfill avoidance, freshwater conservation and the mitigation of climate change. Raising awareness of food waste amongst consumers and providing practical advice to them can also help them to waste less and realise financial savings. Preventing food waste can also help to address other key strategic food issues, including supporting more healthy sustainable diets (through for example better control of portion sizes), food and water security.

WRAP’s work with partners to reduce food waste and improve the sustainability of the food system

13. Over the last five years WRAP has built up a comprehensive evidence base which has raised awareness of the issue, developed a strong case of change, and given focus to the areas where consumers need the most help, where business and local authorities can benefit, and where the biggest impacts can be made. This evidence base includes a technical research and innovation programme where WRAP works with industry to overcome technical obstacles to reducing food waste in the supply chain. WRAP's business plan and programmes to 2015 continue to acknowledge the importance of tackling food waste to improve resource efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve freshwater and save businesses and consumers money.

14. Influencing decisions around food design, production, purchase and use is challenging, and WRAP has worked with a wide range of partners to develop a credible, integrated and consistent approach. Increasingly we are supporting people and organisations to develop their own action plans, providing them with a suite of tools and guidelines, making it easier for those consumers who want to change to make the most of what they buy.

15. Retailers and brands have spent over £10 million helping their customers reduce food waste. Examples include Sainsbury’s "Love Your Leftovers" and Morrison’s "Great Taste Less Waste" campaigns, the introduction of better labelling (e.g. Warburton’s have removed ‘display until’ dates from their products to reduce date labelling confusion), pack sizes that are better suited to today’s households (e.g. Kingsmill’s "Little Big Loaf") and promotions that give consumers more flexibility to use up the food they buy. These will help the sector to meet the targets agreed under voluntary agreements with WRAP for food waste reduction under the Courtauld Commitment [15] (330,000 tonnes per year by 2012) and the Federation House Commitment [16] (reducing operational water use by 20% by 2020).

16. More than 300 local authorities in England are also running Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) [17] initiatives that help local residents to reduce the amount of food that they waste, including road shows, cookery demonstrations and recipe competitions, working with community groups, housing associations and businesses. From 2010 WRAP has also been supporting the Greater London Authority to help them deliver their LFHW campaign across London.

17. Community groups, charities and broader civil society are also engaged. A partnership between Love Food Hate Waste and the Women’s Institute (WI) successfully led to the development of approaches for community-level engagement that help consumers improve their confidence around food, and realise the benefits of wasting less. Trials led to significant savings for participants, and up to 50% less waste. More details of this initiative are provided in answer to Q3 below.

18. Individuals have also been motivated through engaging with the Love Food Hate Waste programme. They have started their own activities with friends and neighbours to tackle food leftovers and to design new recipes.

Progress to date

19. Since launching the LFHW campaign in November 2007, millions of people have engaged with the programme, throwing away less food and saving many hundreds of pounds for their household. Key outcomes are:

· Reduced food waste arisings by over 380,000 tonnes a year, preventing over £860 million worth of food a year being wasted. The production of this food and the disposal of the waste would have produced more than 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions a year.

· Cumulatively food waste savings amount to 670,000 tonnes, with a value of over £1.5 billion.

· More than 2 million people have made changes to the way they shop, prepare, store and use food.

· Every pound spent by WRAP on LFHW has prevented around £150 of food being wasted. Additional spending by partners has more than matched the WRAP spending.

· Local authorities will have saved at least £22 million in avoided waste facility gate fees and landfill charges.

Next steps

20. There are huge potential benefits to tackling household food waste. Good progress has been made but there is a need to maintain momentum, to raise awareness further and enable a greater number of households to benefit, in order to reduce further the millions of tonnes of good food being wasted. To give an indication of the scale of the issue, work undertaken under the first phase of the Courtauld Commitment decreased food waste arisings by 4.6% (out of a total of 8.3 million tonnes) between 2006 and 2009. Meeting the targets in the second phase will reduce food waste by a further 4% by the end of 2012.

21. WRAP and LFHW intend to facilitate delivery through existing and new partners across society, providing them with the necessary evidence and resources to do this in a cost-effective way. There is significant potential to exploit synergies between food waste prevention and health communication and solutions development, to achieve more consistent and cost-effective delivery, and to help the UK’s households to move towards a more healthy and sustainable diet.

22. There are also continuing opportunities for food waste prevention and collection in the food manufacturing & retail sector, where the second phase of the Courtauld Commitment aims to achieve a 5% reduction in product and packaging waste in the supply chain by the end of 2012, whilst approaches to business and schools food waste collections are under development [18] .

23. There are new opportunities in the hospitality and food service sectors. These exist in both the ‘profit’ and ‘cost’ sectors:

· profit – encompassing businesses whose primary role is to provide hospitality (restaurants, hotels, pubs, etc.); and

· cost – businesses and organisations for whom food service is a secondary role (public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals, prisons and the MoD, as well as private sector organisations).

24. We are currently working with Defra and the Devolved Administrations to consider how best to address packaging and food waste prevention and diversion from landfill for the hospitality sector. At the same time, we are working with Defra to ensure successful roll-out of the new government buying standards for food waste minimisation and collections.

25. As well as the sector-specific opportunities to prevent food waste, taken together there is a potential to exploit synergies that will lead to further household reductions. The use of voluntary agreements (responsibility deals) seems to be a cost-effective route to tackling these sectors.

Q3. How can consumers best be helped to make more sustainable choices about food?

26. WRAP research shows that consumers can be helped to make more sustainable choices about food in a number of ways. We have used Defra’s ‘4Es’ (encourage, enable, engage and exemplify) approach to pro-environmental behaviour change [19] as a framework for our response below.

Encouraging consumers

27. Consumers can be encouraged to make more sustainable choices about food by providing them with reasons why change is important. For example, WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) behaviour change programme works in partnership with retailers, local authorities and civil society to show consumers, alongside the environmental reasons why this is an important issue, that they could save themselves £50 a month by making the most of the food they buy. A good example of this approach is a joint programme run by Herefordshire and Worcestershire councils [20] for six months between late 2008 and mid-2009. As a result of this programme:

· Recognition of the LFHW brand increased amongst residents from 10% in the pre-campaign survey to 21% post-campaign, and awareness of the campaign similarly rose from 23% to 40%;

· the number of Committed Food Waste Reducers (a metric used to monitor the impact of food waste reduction initiatives) rose from 13% to 23% in 5 months; and

· an estimated 2,340 tonnes of food waste was diverted from landfill during the year following the campaign.

28. The last two bullet points are most relevant here, since they indicate that the programme did not just make local residents more aware of the issues surrounding food waste, but actually persuaded them to change their attitudes and behaviour.

Enabling consumers

29. Consumers can be helped by providing information that enables them to act (should they wish to). For example, by providing a reliable and efficient recycling service and communicating with residents in an easy and accessible format, letting them know how, when and why to recycle, Solihull council increased the range of material collected for recycling and ran a cost effective and successful communications programme to help people use the service [21] .

30. Part of the process of enabling consumers is making it easier for them to act. In the food area, this includes innovations by retail brands to extend the shelf life of food products. One example is Marks and Spencer’s work to increase the shelf life and reduce the packaging associated with its beef joints and steaks. They were looking for an alternative to the plastic tray in which the beef joint was previously packaged, but needed to ensure that the preservation of the meat was not reduced. The solution was a ‘skin pack’, a type of packaging that is wrapped tightly around the product. It keeps the meat fresh for up to four extra days, which means it is less likely to go to waste. This approach also cuts down the weight of the packaging by up to 69% [22] .

Engaging with consumers

31. Consumers can be helped by engaging with them, to help them overcome their personal barriers to changing behaviour. This can be usefully pursued through civil society groups such as the Women’s Institute. The Love Food Champions project is a good example of doing this. This was a pilot project that ran in ten areas around England in early 2008. Before the project started, participants were throwing away 4.7kg of food per week (just slightly less than the national average). After the project, they were wasting less than half this amount per household [23] . Elements of this approach have subsequently been rolled out across the country by a number of WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste partner organisations.

Exemplifying change to consumers

32. The fourth and final element of Defra’s 4Es framework is exemplifying change, through leading by example and sharing what others are doing. With the Love Food Hate Waste programme we do this through areas such as the ‘add your voice’ section of the website [24] . Locally, we encourage partner local authorities to showcase what they, and local retailers, are doing to make a difference. In the Recycle Now programme (another WRAP behaviour change programme, this time aiming to help householders to recycle more things more often), we encourage local authorities to tell their residents how well the area is doing. A good local example of this is the Recycle for Cumbria campaign [25] .

33. As consumers, we are influenced by the person that communicates with us. Trust is a key issue. A person that is perceived as the expert on the issue is more influential. Such communication then needs to be reinforced through social networks, establishing the desired behaviour as a social norm. Partners are an essential part of WRAP’s approach to communicating effectively with and helping consumers. Our work on food waste with the Women’s Institute is a good example. WRAP provides the evidence and experience to such partners, and they then communicate the message to their client groups.

Conclusions on Q3

34. WRAP’s research and evidence base shows that consumers need to know the facts, so that they understand what the issue is, and why they should care about it. They need to know that others are taking part, and that they are part of something bigger. They need to have the infrastructure in place to be able to make the change for themselves in practice. Also, they need to be motivated: we need to thank people for their efforts and update them on how well they are doing.

35. Clear evidence of these points has been recorded in our national and local partnership work with Recycle Now and Love Food Hate Waste. We fully understand that remote messages from national or local government are often not the best way to motivate people to act. Working with local partners (who are trusted by local people) is important to reinforce messages and to encourage participation. However, they in turn value our expertise, which provides them with accurate information and evidence.

36. With the Love Food Hate Waste programme, WRAP has taken a two-pronged approach. First, we have provided the evidence and research to engage with retailers, food brands and consumers directly. Second, we have encouraged retailers and brands, along with other partners, such as councils and civil society groups, to engage with consumers themselves, in order to pass on knowledge and information, and so help consumers to make more sustainable choices about food.


37. WRAP believes that efforts to tackle food waste should be an important part of any strategy to make the UK’s food more sustainable. We hope that the evidence above shows that the impacts of food waste are significant, and that action to reduce food waste can therefore make a significant contribution towards greater sustainability. WRAP is working in partnership with others to realise these benefits.

38. We hope that this evidence will be of use to the Committee, and would be happy to expand upon it further in oral evidence if that would be helpful.

Annex 1

About WRAP

39. WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) is a-not-for profit UK company providing recycling and resource efficiency programmes for Defra, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The organisation was formed in 2000 to implement a number of the actions set out in the Government White Paper Waste Strategy 2000.

40. WRAP’s vision is a world without waste, where resources are used sustainably. We work with businesses, local authorities and individuals to help them reap the benefits of reducing waste, developing sustainable products and using resources in an efficient way.

41. There are two things that differentiate WRAP from others working on these issues. The first is our technical and market expertise, which we use to help inform and implement our funders’ policies. The second is our practical ability to help individuals and businesses embrace change and become more resource efficient.

42. WRAP exists to address market failures. We only intervene where the free market is not delivering our funders’ policy agendas on its own. Once the market failure has been addressed, we seek to exit, leaving the market to operate freely.

43. We add value through our skills, our expertise and our ability to work in partnership with other bodies, at both a national and a local level, to achieve real change. We deliver value for money through:

· minimising the cost to business of meeting Government requirements;

· leveraging private sector finance to address market failures;

· creating efficiencies and economies of scale; and

· accelerating the growth of key sectors of the low carbon economy.

30 March 2011

[1] Lundqvist, J., C. de Fraiture and D. Molden. Saving Water: From Field to Fork – Curbing Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain. (SIWI - 2008).

[2] Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures – Synthesis Report C7: Reducing waste (2011).

[3] Briefing memo – Food and drink waste arisings in the UK (WRAP – 2010).

[4] Organisations whose primary role is the provision of hospitality or food service ( e.g. restaurants, pubs, clubs, quick service restaurants ) .

[5] Waste arising in the supply of food and drink to households in the UK (WRAP – 2010).

[6] Briefing memo – Food and drink waste arisings in the UK (WRAP – 2010).

[7] Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK – (WRAP - 2009).

[8] Avoidable food and drink waste is food and drink thrown away that was, at some point prior to disposal, edible in the vast majority of situations. Potentially avoidable food and drink waste is food and drink that some people eat and others do not (e.g. bread crusts), or that can be eaten when a food is prepared in one way but not in another (e.g. potato skins).

[9] The water and carbon footprint of household food and drink waste in the UK (WRAP and WWF – 2011).

[10] The water and carbon footprint of household food and drink waste in the UK (WRAP and WWF – 2011).

[11] Household Food and Drink Waste Linked to Food Purchases - Defra (2010).

[12] Household Food and Drink Waste Linked to Food Purchases - Defra (2010).

[13] Household Food and Drink Waste Linked to Food Purchases - Defra (2010).

[14] Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK – (WRAP - 2009).

[15] For more information please see:

[16] For more information please see:

[17] For more information on the Love Food Hate Waste campaign please visit:

[18] Collecting Food Waste From Small Businesses and Schools. 2011. Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd with contributions from WRAP.



[19] The 4Es framework was originally published by HM Government in March 2005 in ‘Securing the Future’, the UK Sustainable Development Strategy. Available at : . See p.26.

[20] .

[21] .

[22] .

[23] .

[24] .

[25] : “ Last year in Cumbria we recycled 36,718 tonnes of garden waste, 12,240 tonnes of paper, 7,240 tonnes of glass and 549 tonnes of cans. That's 56,747 tonnes of waste we collectively diverted from our landfill sites. A good effort no doubt but that's still only 17% so we've still got some way to go.”