Food 'Waste'



Our supermarkets, where most British people do their regular shop, are responsible for huge quantities of waste’: shelves hold baskets of oranges, scores deep, hundreds of cartons of milk are on perpetual display and meat and fish counters bulge with pre-wrapped, oven-ready protein. A proportion of this food is never sold and while some supermarkets have signed up to food bank donations, large quantities of unspoilt but ‘past sell-by’, or slightly blemished items, are, literally, ‘dumped’.

And then came the ‘freegans’. ‘Freeganism’ is an attempt to redress food wastefulness. Opposed to the routine waste of supermarkets and households, freegans seek to draw attention to the financial and friendly benefits of sharing wasted foods. Click here to see a film ‘feeding the 5000’ which sought to provide Londoners with a meal made from ‘out of date’ food.

Above image sourced from OpenLearn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence


Whilst freeganism is now a term used in common parlance, the message is still not getting through to the general public. It is estimated that nearly 30 per cent of the food Britons buy is wasted, with over 6.7 million tonnes being discarded uneaten.

In the past, perishable goods would have been consumed immediately, but now carrots and chicken legs go in the fridge in the expectation that they will be cooked at some point during the week. Surprisingly often, however, they are not. The drumsticks find their way to the back of the fridge, eventually pass their sell-by date, and, when excavated, are put in the bin.

The issue of waste, and perhaps more importantly, wastefulness, goes to the heart of global inequalities. As Tristram Stewart notes, ‘All the world's nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe’. Moreover, a ‘third of the world's entire food supply could be saved by reducing waste – or enough to feed 3 billion people; and this would still leave enough surplus for countries to provide their populations with 130 per cent of their nutritional requirements.’

The statistics of waste – food waste, packaging waste, electronics waste, wasted journeys – are shocking, and have economic, environmental and, perhaps increasingly, personal implications.

Above text and image sourced from OpenLearn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence