Brexit and Covid triggered 100,000-tonne surge in food waste

Brexit and Covid contributed towards a 100,000-tonne surge in food waste in the UK, a new report has found.

According to new research by Wrap, the UK’s exit from the EU along with disruption to the supply chain caused by the impact of the pandemic were the main factors for the spike in food waste last year.

In an update to the industry’s Food Waste Roadmap by the climate action NGO, 140 UK producers and manufacturers found overall edible waste decreased by 13,900 tonnes, or 1.4%, in 2021, compared with previous years.

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Over half (57%) of suppliers had seen their food waste levels increase compared with their baselines, with the “vast majority” reporting a spike in 2020 and 2021.

Combined, businesses reported more than 1.2 billion tonnes of food waste, of which almost 80% was edible.

There was better news for retailers however, who saw wasted food drop by more than 19,000 tonnes in 2021 compared with 2018, which Wrap said equated to almost £62m of food not going to waste.

Wrap says the increase was “likely at least in part to be explained by the disruption and subsequent recovery related to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

But it adds: “The impact of exiting the European Union has affected some businesses’ levels of food waste.”

Director of collaboration and change at Wrap, Catherine David said: “Several large businesses reported that in 2021 it was more cost-effective to send their food to a waste destination in the UK than to send it to an EU country for use in animal feed.

She added: “The convergence of Covid and Brexit has obviously had an impact. The industry had been hit by a wave of economic challenges, which had posed barriers to its efforts on food waste, she added.”

The news comes as almost a fifth of Brits (19%) have switched to a plant-based diet in a bid to save on grocery costs, a new survey has revealed.



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