Updating the true cost of food waste in the UK

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

The manufacturing sector is tossing enough grub to feed everyone in the UK for 16 days. Pic: GettyImages/BryanAlberstat
The manufacturing sector is tossing enough grub to feed everyone in the UK for 16 days. Pic: GettyImages/BryanAlberstat

Related tags: Balloon One, Food waste, Uk, Supply chain, warehouse management systems, automated system, food insecurity, Fareshare

Supply chain specialist Balloon One racked up the cost of the UK supply chain’s food waste problem – and came up with some shocking results.

We all are very aware that millions of tonnes of food are wasted in the UK every year, but it’s also good to be reminded of the extent of the crisis.

Balloon One’s research revealed that a whopping 4.8 million tonnes is tossed annually, highlighting the drastic action needed by various industries to combat wastage that is not only costly but also hugely detrimental to the environment.

To underscore the true cost, the research compared food waste data in relation to the amount of food the average Brit needs per day. The UK’s population count has tipped over 67 million people, and according to FareShare, 8.4 million of them live in food insecure homes. Despite this, we are still racking up astonishing amounts of waste that could be enough to feed everyone in the UK and tackle the country’s food poverty crisis.

  • The manufacturing and processing sector produces the largest amount of food waste – around 1.9 million tonnes – which is enough to feed everyone in the UK for 16 days.
  • The agriculture and primary production sector produces 1.6 million tonnes of waste, enough to feed everyone in the UK for 13 days.
  • The hospitality and food service sector produces 1 million tonnes, equivalent to enough grub to feed all Brits for approximately 8 days.
  • Although the retail sector produces the least amount of food waste, it should not pat itself on the back with a figure of 0.3 million tonnes, which is enough to feed everyone in the UK for 3 days.

The cost of all this squandering doesn’t only hurt the economy’s bottom line or a bank balance. The environment is also feeling the pressure – tossed food means wasted water, energy and space that’s be used to grow, produce and transport it.

How can you reduce food waste?

“The true cost of food waste in the supply chain really is shocking. Clearly there are steps we need to take as an industry to reduce our waste,”​ said Craig Powell, MD of Balloon One, which specialises in software and supply chain applications for distribution, manufacturing and ecommerce companies, combining both technological and logistics expertise.

Powell added the picture is not all doom and gloom, though, in that most of the waste is largely due to an inefficient supply chain and can easily be avoided.

“When it comes to perishable items like food, time is of the essence at every stage.”

He noted there are some small changes that every business should make to tackle the problem, namely:

  • Monitor food waste
  • Automate processes
  • Improve inventory management

“By investing in WMS (warehouse management systems) and automated systems, warehouses, transport management companies, retailers and hospitality venues can all collaborate and reduce lead times. That means food can get from farm to fork much more quickly,”​ said Powell.

“Whether you lower your inventory levels or automate your processes, every company, no matter their size, can get involved and have an impact.”

Methodology

The average amount of food needed per person per day is 4lbs (1.81kg), according to Precision Nutrition. To work out how many people the food waste could feed, Balloon One converted the total amount of waste per sector into pounds and divided it by 4. Population estimate was based on statistics from the ONS (67,081,0000) – daily food figures per sector was divided by the total population.

Related topics: Market Trends

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