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'Stalling of progress' in efforts to reduce food waste

Consumers are throwing away £13 billion of edible food from homes a year, figures suggest.

In 2015 the average household wasted £470 worth of food which went in the bin when it could have been eaten, new estimates from waste and recycling expert body Wrap shows.

The latest figures show efforts to tackle food waste from homes have stalled in the past few years, with 7.3 million tonnes thrown away in 2015, compared to seven million tonnes in 2012.

Of the food thrown away, 4.4 million tonnes was "avoidable" waste that was edible at some point before it was put in the bin or food waste caddy, such as bread that goes mouldy, compared to 4.2 million tonnes in 2012.

The rest were scraps that cannot be eaten such as egg shells, tea bags and pineapple skin.

The avoidable food waste generated 19 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime, from being grown or reared to ending up in the bin, and preventing that pollution would be equivalent to taking one in four cars off UK roads, Wrap said.

Falls in food prices and rising incomes since 2014 have reduced the incentive for people to cut their food waste, halting a previous downward trend in the problem, the organisation said.

Between 2007 and 2012, the total amount of household food waste fell 15%, and avoidable food waste dropped by 21%, thanks to a combination of rising food prices, changes to food products and labelling to simplify use by date advice, and campaigning to raise awareness.

But the latest figures show the food industry has failed to meet a commitment to cut household food waste by 5% between 2012 and 2015.

Wrap's chief executive Marcus Gover said: "Citizens are wasting one million tonnes less food per year, which means over eight million tonnes less food waste than when we started tackling this issue in 2007.

"But it is incredibly challenging to reduce food waste, and the stalling of progress shows just how difficult it is.

"That's why I'm calling on all businesses, organisations, campaigners and NGOs who work in this area to unite together in the fight against food waste. By working together we can win this battle."

Wrap said it is uniting retailers, manufacturers and local authorities through its food sustainability initiative, the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which aims to reduce food waste across the UK food system by 20% on a per person basis by 2025.

Practical measures will be piloted and assessed, such as informing people - for example on shelf displays - when they are buying the most commonly wasted foods about the key actions they could take to prevent waste.

Personalised messaging through online shopping, loyalty card schemes or apps could help customers identify easy and beneficial changes in their shopping habits, and there could be common industry guidelines on storage advice, date labelling and product portions on key food and drink.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said strong progress had been made by the industry on tackling food waste.

"But we all have a role to play and despite a million-tonne fall in domestic food waste since 2007, there is clearly more we need to do.

"That is why we will continue to work with Wrap to support their new strategy to raise awareness, increase education and change people's perceptions of food waste," she said.

Wrap's work is part-funded by the Government.

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