£13.7 Billion Wasted On Dumped Food and Drink

Councils call for end to multi-buy deals to help reduce amount discarded from homes

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The cost of buying and throwing away good food and drink reached £13.7 billion last year, new analysis by the Local Government Association can reveal.

The analysis, which combined the purchasing price of food which wasn’t eaten with the cost to council tax-payers of sending it to landfill, reveals that households paid an estimated £520 each for uneaten food over the past 12 months.

The LGA is calling on retailers to start making a serious contribution to reducing the amount of food waste discarded from people’s homes, in particular changing the way they promote the sale of perishable goods like fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat. Town hall leaders want to see multi-buy deals, which encourage people to take more food than they need, replaced by discounts on individual products, which offer customers the same value without incentivising over-buying.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, LGA Environment Board Vice Chairman, said: “The average family in England spent £520 last year on food and drink which wasn’t eaten. That is a heart breaking figure in a world where hundreds of millions of people go hungry every day.

“While campaigns like Love Food, Hate Waste are encouraging people to make better use of the food they buy, the source of the problem is not being adequately addressed. With more than five million tonnes of edible food thrown out each year, way too much food is being brought into homes in the first place. Retailers need to take a large slice of responsibility for that.

“Buy one get one free deals, which give consumers a few days to munch through 16 clementines, are not about providing value for money. They are about transferring waste out of retail operations and into the family home. Retailers should scrap multi-buy deals which encourage people to take more than they need and replace them with discounts on individual products which will help reduce excess consumption and increase customer choice.”

The LGA is calling on retailers to set more ambitious waste reduction goals to bring them into line with the big improvements in waste management being produced by local authorities and residents.

Retailers and manufacturers claim that they have prevented 670,000 tonnes of food waste since they entered the voluntary Courtauld Commitment to tackle waste in 2005. The total amount of packaging waste being produced each year since 2005 has remained the same.

In that same time councils and residents have reduced annual landfill by more than 7 million tonnes and almost doubled the recycling rate from 22 per cent of all household waste to nearly 40 per cent. Despite those achievements local authorities will still pay more than £550 million in landfill tax this financial year as they put more than 10 million tonnes of waste in the ground.

April 11, 2011