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UK households unaware of the impact their food waste has on the planet

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UK adults estimate that almost a third of what they buy ends up in the bin despite three in four making attempts to get more use out of the products that end up in their fridges and cupboards. The top three food items wasted are salad leaves, bread and milk. Other foodstuffs commonly ending up in the bin are bananas, cucumber, strawberries and potatoes.

The study of 2,000 adults commissioned by Waitrose found one in seven (14 per cent) forget to check use-by dates, while nearly one in 10 are guilty of buying more than they need in the first place. And despite 67 per cent taking care to plan their food shop for the week ahead in a bid to eliminate leftovers – more than a fifth forget about items they’ve bought until it’s too late.

Not planning a supermarket shop, overestimating portion sizes and buying food for recipes they don’t end up cooking are among the reasons for households producing so much food waste. But food waste is having a bigger impact than we realise, as Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership explains, “When we think of the triggers of global warming, we think about fumes pumping out from power stations, car exhausts or planes. But in fact, food waste creates six times more greenhouse gases than aviation. When we throw food away, we waste the precious resources it’s taken to grow, package and transport it – and as it rots in landfill, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. So the simple action of throwing food in the bin has more of a negative impact on our planet than people often realise.”

The research found more than a third haven’t considered the impact throwing away food has on the environment, with the average adult binning gone off foodstuffs three days of the week. Yet, three-quarters claimed they were raised in a home where wastage was a big no-no. More than one in 10 confessed to ‘not thinking twice’ about throwing away food, with a further 20 per cent of respondents not feeling as guilty about binning fruit and veggies as they do meat. And 71 per cent think nothing of throwing away their fruit and vegetable peelings because they see no other use for them. As a result, 81 per cent discard their fruit and vegetable peelings, with 16 per cent not seeing any nutritional benefit to these kinds of leftovers.

Rompani added, “Nobody buys food with the intention of throwing it in the bin but with UK homes discarding 4.5 million tonnes of it every year, we clearly need to take more action. This is why, through our Partners Against Waste platform, we have pledged to halve food waste in our supply chain by 2030. We also want to make it easier for our customers by selling oddly shaped vegetables in our ‘A Little Less Than Perfect’ range as well as forgotten cuts of meat. We also continue to work closely with FareShare to donate surplus food to vulnerable families across the UK.”

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