Goal 6: Reduce waste and the ecological footprint of the food system

Food waste is a major issue. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It’s costing us £12.5bn a year and is bad for the environment – but while so much food is being wasted there is a growing number of people living in food poverty in Lancashire. Please email info@lancashirecrn.org if you are interested in or working on an initiative addressing food waste for additional support and to link into the wider work of the SFL Charter.

What are Sustainable Food Lancashire Working on?

  • Supporting Lancashire’s new FareShare:
  • Promoting Environmental Education:
  • Supporting Food Bank Networks:

Goal 6 of our Charter focuses on two key aims:

Aim 1: Reduce food waste, food miles and unnecessary packaging and create opportunities to redistribute surplus food from the whole supply chain across Lancashire

Food waste at home:

  • Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes.
  • We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten.
  • Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children, the equivalent of around £60 a month.

For more facts and helpful information about reducing food waste visit Love Food Hate Waste which aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and help people take action. It shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.

In Lancashire, food waste disposed of into residual waste or (where councils allow it to be – check your district council website’s waste pages for details) in green waste compost bins. It is then then processed at Global Renewables where it is turned into a soil improver or compost respectively. You can visit the facility and see the technology in action! There is also an Environmental Education programme for 7-11 year olds which is fully funded by Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council.

Food waste across the supply chain:

  • 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is wasted.
  • 10% of rich countries greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten.
  • Food waste contributes twice as much to global warming as all of the world’s air traffic.

The Soil Association estimate that 20-40% of UK Fruit and vegetables in Europe are rejected on cosmetic grounds before they reach the consumer. Alongside this, 5.8 million people live in deep poverty in the UK, and this figure on the rise. Organisations like the Gleaning Network UK sets out to tackle these twin problems by reviving the ancient practice of gleaning: gathering the crops leftover after harvest.

You can find a fantastic gallery of wonky vegetables on the Guardian website. Watch Intermarche’s video about their radical expansion of “wonky” fruit and veg in their supermarkets in France. It might not look as ‘perfect but it’s still as tasty and nutritious! Check out Jamie Oliver’s campaign to promote the supply of wonky veg in supermarkets.

3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted every year by the food and drink industry, and around 10% of this is surplus and fit for consumption; enough food for 800 million meals[1].

There are lots of national and international organisations looking to reduce food waste (Love Food Hate Waste) and direct surplus edible food to people in need, such as the, Feeding the 5000, the Gleaning Network, the Global Foodbanking Network,

British activist Tristram Stuart is campaigning to address the Global Food Waste Scandal, and you can see him in action in this TED Talk.

Click here to find out more about food miles and food packaging.

Addressing food poverty:

Although the UK is the seventh richest country in the world, it is also deeply unequal, and millions of families across the UK are living below the breadline.

The latest figures published by the Trussell Trust show that over 1,000,000 people have received at least three days’ emergency food from the charity’s foodbanks in the last twelve months, more than in any previous year. Read the Feeding Britain: Report on Hunger in the UK to understand more about the complex reasons behind food poverty.

In Lancashire, our food banks are helping people living in food poverty by providing emergency food assistance and we want to support them in accessing surplus food that would otherwise go to waste.

Aim 2: Promote food systems that protect wildlife and support food produced with high animal welfare standards.

People are aware that the food they eat affects their health, but what is less well known is the impact producing, processing and distribution has on the world’s resources and environmental quality. The global food system has a huge environmental impact. It accounts for between 14-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, generates an enormous amount of waste and pollution, and contributes to the degradation of natural resources such as air, water and soil quality, wildlife and biodiversity[2].

Examples of sustainable food production methods include permaculture (visit Offshoots in Burnley to see permaculture in action in Lancashire), low agro-chemical use, the provision of wildlife habitat space, improvements to energy efficiency, effective soil and water management and the practice of high animal welfare standards.

Goal 6 of our Charter aims to raise awareness of these issues and implement the ‘3 Rs’ of waste management; reduce, reuse and recycle:

  • Awareness: Raising awareness of food waste and the environmental impacts of the food system.
  • Reduce: Engaging farmers, manufacturers, the food industry and consumers to reduce waste across the food system and supporting the use of sustainable farming methods that can reduce the negative environmental impacts of farming, helping to increase biodiversity and improve the quality of natural resources; i.e. Sustainable Fish Cities and Red Tractor and the promotion of meat alternatives.
  • Reuse: Supporting opportunities and channels for the use of surplus food from agriculture and allotments to supermarkets, grocery sources and food outlets via organisations such as Fareshare and local food banks.
  • Recycle: Supporting small and large scale composting and recycling initiatives.

[1] *Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010.

[2] Vermeulen, s. J., Campbell, B. m., Ingram, J. (2012). Climate Change and Food Systems; Annual Review of Environment And Resources, 37, 195-222

The Theme Lead for Goal 6 is Dawn Welham from the Lancashire Community Recycling Network – email info@lancashirecrn.org if you are interested in or working on an initiative addressing food waste.