There are around 26m households in the UK,2 each producing relatively small volumes of weekly food waste yet contributing 7.2m tonnes of the 14.8m tonnes of food waste generated annually in the UK.3 37% of this waste still goes to landfill. Astonishingly, almost two thirds of this waste is avoidable.

Busy lives and confusion about sell by dates, and food storage have all increased food waste. To make matters worse, reports show that the rates of recycling in the UK are beginning to plateau.

However, as the recent Local Government Authority (LGA) report highlights, local authorities can realise significant savings by tackling householders' food waste, and suggests that removing this as a contaminant could yield as much as £3bn more value from recyclate which could then go towards stabilising or reducing costs for the taxpayer.4

  • Barriers to household food waste
    1. Weekly collections

      Weekly general waste collections make it easy to throw materials away without giving a second thought to re-use or recycling. The easy option inadvertently locks society into carrying out less desirable behaviours and is, therefore, a significant barrier to change.

    2. Inconsistent local authority collections

      Furthermore, the lack of a clear, consistent, national strategy for waste collection is stalling investment in collection and an optimal disposal infrastructure and confuses the public that use them.

  • Is anything changing?

    WRAP's 'Love Food Hate Waste' campaign, the Courtauld Commitment, and the work of celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver have all highlighted food waste and encourage waste prevention. Recent figures suggest that in real terms, food waste generation by UK households has fallen by 1.1m tonnes.5

    In Northern Ireland, a formal consultation process began in September 2013 on legislation to ban food waste to landfill.

    In Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland has included the phased banning of food waste to landfill and incineration, a ban on the use of macerators and the introduction of separate collection of food waste from households and businesses for AD.

    In Wales, the Welsh Assembly commissioned a leading consultancy to review the option for Welsh waste, which concluded they set a target of 70% for household recycling by 2025. The separation, weekly collection and recycling of food waste is central to that strategy. Although in its infancy, this nationwide initiative has exceeded its interim recycling target and achieved a 54% recycling rate.

    England is yet to offer a clear, national strategy to realise the full resource potential of its waste streams and specifically food waste. Consequently, different local authorities take different approaches to their waste. However, we are starting to see examples of collaboration at local authority level in the form of waste procurement partnerships, which are demonstrating clear cost and environmental benefits.

  • Household waste recommendations
    • Government to provide a strategic framework for tackling household waste, centred on best practice, commercial benefits, cost efficiencies and positive environmental outcomes that encourage separate food waste collections.
    • Support the development of further collaborative waste collection partnerships between councils to maximise operational efficiencies and process recyclates locally.
    • Where long contracts are in place, the local authority to explore mutually beneficial solutions with the waste provider to prevent food waste going to landfill or incineration.
    • Local authorities to be urged to speed up the adoption of separate food waste collections to maximise environmental benefits and reduce contamination of other forms of recycling.
    • Extend and increase support for food waste education programmes such as ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’, and review the effectiveness of campaign strategies.
    • Find more innovative ways of reinforcing the food waste recycling message using the medium of TV programming.
    • Government to introduce a phased ban on food waste to landfill starting in 2017. The second phase will ensure that all food waste from households and businesses be diverted by 2020.
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2 2011 Census: Population and Household Estimates for the United Kingdom

3 WRAP 2011: New estimates for household food and drink waste in the UK

4 The LGA Waste review 2013: Wealth from Waste

5 WRAP: Reduction in household food waste – Key facts and figures 2007 - 2010