Why is food waste so scary?
Food waste: A big scary problem
At Olio, we’re not scared of ghosts or monsters. We’re scared of food waste. Now, that might sound a bit odd – but bear with us.
In the UK, 6.2 million tonnes of food – or 7 billion meals – is wasted by the food industry every year. Nearly half of that food is still edible when it ends up in the bin.
Meanwhile, as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, 14 million people in the UK are struggling to get enough to eat. And Co2 from rotting food waste accounts for 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Food waste isn’t just scary – it doesn’t make any sense.
How do you even start to solve the problem?
Unsurprisingly, we’re not the only ones to spot that something’s not quite adding up.
Our friends at organisations like WRAP, WWF and more are doing some great work to dig deeper into the problem, uncovering the root causes and bringing players across the industry together to help solve it.
In their most recent annual report, WRAP explained why the redistribution of surplus food is such an impactful step for businesses across the food industry to take to combat food waste. Not only does it help drive down waste, but means nutritious food can reach people that might otherwise struggle to access it.
Over the last few years, the amount of surplus food being redistributed (rather than wasted) in the UK has steadily increased. Collectively, 152,000 tonnes of food was rescued and shared with local communities in 2022, amounting to around £590 million, and 404 million meals.
Why we need to do more
While it’s great to see an upwards trend in food redistribution, WRAP’s report also uncovered some stark insights into the demand for food across UK communities:
- 100% of respondents to the survey that informed WRAP’s latest report said demand for surplus food has risen.
- 92% of respondents identify the cost of living crisis as the main factor influencing that change.
So whilst we’ve made promising steps in the right direction, we still need to do more to fight food waste and address food insecurity.
What can I do as a business?
Luckily, there are lots of easy ways for businesses to address their food waste – and support struggling families whilst they’re at it.
In the retail sector, it’s now pretty standard practice for businesses to redistribute any food that’s nearing its use-by date. Tesco is one example of a national retailer in the UK that’s been able to maximise the amount of food they can share for human consumption via redistribution. Iceland is another that’s shared millions of meals with communities in this way. You can read more about how Olio is working with those retailers (and more) here.
And food redistribution doesn’t just work in a retail environment. For catering and hospitality businesses like hotels, office canteens, hospitals, schools, universities, and even TV and film production companies, it’s now easier than ever to redistribute spare food. Given that 1.1 million tonnes of food (worth £3.2 billion) is wasted across the Hospitality and Food Service industry annually, there’s definitely room for improvement in the sector.
On top of the waste reduction strategies we shared in our recent article, more and more businesses in the HaFS sector are choosing to work with Olio to redistribute their spare food. Thanks to our national network of 90,000 volunteers (who we fondly refer to as Food Waste Heroes 💪🦸), we can rescue food from sites across the country, and share it with people nearby – sometimes in as little as 30 minutes.
Olio’s model for HaFS businesses is trusted by caterers like Compass Group UK&I (and hundreds of their sites). We’ve also been endorsed by food-safety experts and regulators as a safe way to share all food types (from cooked meals to pre-packaged snacks, and loose or frozen ingredients) with local people.
A brighter future
By doing something as simple as sharing your spare food, rather than throwing it away, you can do your bit to feed local communities and fight climate change.
No matter how big or small your business is – if food ends up in the bin, you can be part of the solution to this big scary problem.
Written by Cozzi Baring, Senior Marketing Manager, Olio