By Amanda Strickler
Food waste is a global problem. According to food waste expert and Sophie Prize Winner Tristram Stuart, salvaging 25 percent of the food waste from the U.S., the U.K., and Europe could rid the global population of malnutrition. And around the globe, rising global food prices and increasing income inequality are making it hard for many people to afford to feed themselves. New information on food waste and how to prevent it, however, is becoming more readily available and spurring responsible consumerism. In the U.K., the Love Food, Hate Waste initiative reaches out to consumers with a user-friendly website supplying readers with waste-prevention shopping tips, recipes for leftovers, and facts on global food waste.
Image credit: Love Food Hate Waste
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in the U.K. provides research and resources for waste management, recycling, and resource efficiency. In response to concern about rising food prices, food waste, and food security in 2007-2008, the U.K. government began a new campaign under WRAP called Love Food, Hate Waste. This campaign aims to give individuals in the U.K. insight into the problem of food waste, while also providing solutions to prevent food it from occurring in restaurants, schools, households.
The campaign’s website connects consumers to the food waste issue by providing facts about food waste in the U.K. This information, provided through research conducted by WRAP, empowers readers first through food waste education, and then by offering solutions to prevent food waste. WRAP has even generated statistics which quantify the carbon emissions impact of UK food waste: “If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.” Since most consumers have general knowledge of carbon emissions, presenting the impact of food waste—a lesser-known issue—in this light helps readers to put the topic into perspective.
Love Food, Hate Waste also offers website users tips for food storage and recipes to make use of leftovers or food that is close to expiring. Recipes are even organized by main ingredients making it a quick and easily- accessible resource. Other user-friendly tools include a food waste diary, a portion size calculator, and suggestions for saving money at the grocery store.
One limitation is that the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign only addresses the consumer side of the food waste issue. Food supply chains also contribute significantly to the global percentage of wasted food, and the U.K. government and WRAP have initiated partnerships with food retailers to combat food waste from the supply side. Informed consumers can also be part of the catalyst in reducing supply-side food waste. The more households work to decrease food waste at home, the more likely they will be in demanding low-waste operations from their suppliers.
But for now, the campaign has been very effective at the household level. By cutting back on wasteful food purchases, WRAP estimates that since the beginning of Love Food, Hate Waste, consumers in the U.K. have saved almost £300 million annually.
What other global initiatives are contributing to preventing food waste?
Amanda Strickler is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.
To read about other initiatives that are working to reduce food waste, see: Reducing Food Wate: Making the Most of Our Abundance, Innovation of the Week: Reducing Food Waste, What Works: Reducing Food Waste, and Fresh Ideas for Food Waste.