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A Week of Action on Food Waste and Climate Change

By Dr Ian Garner, Head of WRAP Northern Ireland

If we’re to tackle the climate crisis we’ve got to do it together. That’s why we want you to be part of the UK’s first ever week of action on food waste.  Because if we all throw away less food, we can have a direct and immediate impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Around a third of the food we produce worldwide is lost or wasted and it’s having a significant impact on climate change as it contributes around 10% of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s right; the food that goes unsold or otherwise unused in supermarkets and restaurants, and all the stuff we buy that goes uneaten, is fuelling the climate crisis. Exacerbating the greatest and most urgent challenge facing humanity. 

That’s a lot of unnecessary, avoidable damage we’re doing to the planet.  But we have started to reduce food waste. Since 2007, the UK’s annual food waste has reduced from 11.2 million tonnes to 9.5 million tonnes, putting us on the right track. We now better understand how much food is being wasted and are increasingly able to pinpoint where. We’re even beginning, in many cases, to understand why food is wasted, with numerous studies into the behaviours and attitudes that drive it.  

But the stark message is that wasting food contributes to climate change and that it’s no longer ‘okay’.  We need to take collective, large-scale action on food waste, and we need to do it now.











A Week of Action and Awareness

The UK’s first ever Food Waste Action Week is running from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 March.  It’s bringing together citizens and organisations from retail, manufacturing, local government, hospitality and elsewhere to demonstrate the impact of wasted food on people, on business, and on the planet.  Our Food Waste Action Week partners are from across the value chain and across sectors. Representing and reaching diverse audiences, they naturally play a vital role in extending and amplifying our message and encouraging a shift-change in behaviour.

During the week we are confronting together the challenge, sharing knowledge, and inspiring changes in the way people think about the food we waste.  We’re facing up to the fact that the more food we waste, the greater the impact on our planet and the greater the drain on our valuable natural resources.  We’re exploring the practical ways in which we all can drive down the amount of food we waste and look at why, in every sense – whether as a citizen, a business, or other organisation – wasting food makes no sense.

COVID-19 has changed everything and continues to challenge us all.  That said, WRAP data and research suggests that throughout these testing times, the climate emergency remains a priority to UK citizens.  Though for many of us 2020 was a difficult year it may just have served, in some way, as a wake-up call on food waste – giving us a chance to pause and rethink the way we produce and use and consume our food, and how we can reduce its loss and waste.

Together, We’ll End Food Waste

There are many reasons why food is wasted, and we all have a responsibility to waste less. WRAP’s extensive research tells us that it is household food waste which makes up 70% of the total UK food waste post-farm gate.

For this first Food Waste Action Week, we very much value working alongside our partners in local councils and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. As supporters of Food Waste Action Week, they have a crucial role in delivering the campaign, to reach into households and communities, and in delivering messages that inspire citizens: driving a reduction in food waste.  Likewise, this is an opportunity for citizens to take action and lead the way on tackling the climate crisis.

It is perhaps too easy to forget how food arrives on our plates, and maybe that makes it easier for us to waste it. But now is the time to join forces, remind ourselves of the value of food, the impact wasting it has on our planet; and create the lasting change which could end wasting food for good.

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