Food redistribution up, but 200,000 tonnes still wasted

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More than 106,000 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 253 million meals – was redistributed via charitable and commercial outlets in 2021, up 16% on 2019, according to climate action NGO Wrap.

This represents more than £330 million worth of food saved from becoming waste.

The commercial sector took the bulk of surplus food from manufacturers in 2021, with retail the largest supplier to the charitable sector. The hospitality and food service sector continues to increase the tonnage of surplus food it redistributes. The types of food redistributed remain similar, with the amount of fresh meat and fish, drinks and ambient food doubling between 2019 and 2021, while fresh produce, dairy, chilled pre-prepared and frozen food all fell in 2021, with bakery and chilled-prepared foods now lower than in 2019.

Despite the rise, WRAP, which monitors UK surplus food as part of its food waste prevention work, warns that each year nearly 200,000 tonnes of perfectly good food still go to waste in the supply chain and is calling for more to be done.

Catherine David, director collaboration and change at WRAP, says: “It’s devastating to see how much food continues to be wasted from supply chains when so many people are struggling to afford the basics, and food redistributors say they can take more.

“Whilst we welcome the increased amount of food being redistributed in the UK, we know there is a huge amount of good food – 200,000 tonnes of it every year – that could be feeding people. Wasting food also feeds climate change, as all the resources taken to produce the food are thrown in the bin with it. We urge all food businesses and their suppliers to adopt our guidance on redistribution as a priority and help more food get to the people who need it. The surplus food is there, and there is so much more that could be saved at this difficult time for UK families.”

WRAP has updated the Food and Drink Surplus Network to make it easier for businesses with surplus food to connect with commercial and charitable redistributors.

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