EU sees 22b kg of food wastage a year, study shows

LONDON • The European Union (EU) wastes about 22 billion kg of food a year and Britain wastes the most food, according to a study done by European Commission-backed researchers.

The study, which was published yesterday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at data from six countries to analyse the water and nitrogen resources lost in the EU through consumer food waste.

It found nearly 80 per cent of all food waste is "avoidable" and Britain is the worst offender, wasting the equivalent of a tin of beans a person every day. Even Romania, where food waste was the lowest, wastes a lot of food - roughly equivalent to an apple a day.

Averaged over all EU citizens, that amounts to 22 billion kg of food each year, the study said.

The researchers said educating people about how to shop more carefully and plan their consumption would help cut the amount they throw away, lowering food bills and limiting waste's impact on the environment.

"In some ways, it's good that this waste is 'avoidable', because it means we're able to do something about it," said Dr Davy Vanham of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, who led the work. "A lot of food is still 'good' but is thrown away when it passes its sell-by date."

The study - which used data from Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania - found that vegetables, fruit and cereal accounted for the bulk of the avoidable food waste, partly because they tend to have a shorter shelf life.

But meat also goes to waste, according to the study, and that has a greater impact on nitrogen and water resources.

The research team was able to study only six of the 28 EU member states properly because data from the other countries were not as reliable, Dr Vanham said.

"Certainly it would be useful if governments invested more in measuring waste with greater accuracy," he said.

Earlier this year, France passed legislation to outlaw the destruction of unsold food products by big supermarkets as part of its effort to reduce food waste by half by 2025.

It said that food wastage equated to 20kg to 30kg of food a person a year, costing an estimated €12 billion (S$19 billion) to €20 billion a year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'EU sees 22b kg of food wastage a year, study shows'. Subscribe