The latest Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) report, issued on July 25, focuses primarily on agricultural and primary production food losses along with food surplus waste in the United Kingdom, which weigh in respectively at 1.6 million and 2 million tons valued at £1.2 billion. Agricultural food waste alone amounts to 7% of the entire UK food harvest.
After reviewing the report, Richard Harrow, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), commented on the scale of food waste within the nation’s food production system:
“I firmly believe frozen has a vital role to play in waste reduction efforts. The freezing process is ‘nature’s pause button’ and allows surplus crops that have no market due to a bumper harvest or fluctuations in demand, to be preserved for later use.”
He pointed out that research from Cranfield University shows increasing the production and consumption of frozen food in the UK could play a significant role in delivering the government’s 2020 and 2050 food security targets.
“Government, food producers and retailers recognize we have a huge problem that needs to be addressed and freezing is a significant part of the solution,” added Harrow.
WRAP’s estimates show the scale of the situation based on 2017 data, and the organization is now working to acquire more data directly from producers to refine its findings, and help direct future action. The registered charity has also produced a new online resource for farmers and growers to provide them with access to a broad range of markets and outlets for surplus food.
WRAP estimates that food waste accounts for 1.6 million tons of the total figure, or around 3% of production with a market value of around £650 million. Sugar beet, potatoes and carrots made up more than half of the overall waste by weight, with the top ten products accounting for 80% of the total weight. When grouped by product type, horticultural crops make up 54% of the total, cereals 30%, livestock 8% and milk 8%.
A significant factor is also the percentage of a crop that becomes waste. For example, of the top twenty foods listed milk has the highest total production by weight at nearly 15 million tons. In this case, 116,000 tons of milk waste arose representing 0.8% of total production. While for lettuces, the percentage of waste is nearly 25% of total production (104,000 tons).
Surplus food comprises those products that are not sold for human consumption as intended, but which are instead used as livestock feed, redistributed to charities, or may become bio-based materials such as colorants. The amount of surplus food is estimated to be an additional 2.0 million tons per annum, or 4% of production with a market value of more than £500 million.
“This is the most detailed study of food surplus and waste in primary production undertaken for the UK, and a key finding has been the range of waste across all food categories. This tells us is there is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice, and that’s where our work is now focused,” said Peter Maddox, director of Banbury, Oxon-based WRAP.