Within the last decade, Food Waste and Loss have become issues of international concern. Recent estimates suggest that globally one third of food never reaches a human stomach, and global food waste is associated with large amounts of greenhouse gas emission – if food waste were a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the China and the USA. Growing political and public consensus around the urgency of these challenges has provided the impetus for governments, regions, cities, businesses, organisations, and independent citizens to act to reduce food waste and loss. New issues have emerged including surplus food, the interpretation of over consumption of food as waste, and new valorisation technologies that enable new extractions of value from inedible food waste to allow shifts towards a circular bio-economy. Many food waste reduction targets have been set, the most prominent of these being Sustainable Development Goal 12.3: by 2030, to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.
10.2 million tonnes of food waste was generated in the UK in 2015. Of this households generated 7 million tonnes, while industry and the supply chain generated 3.1 million tonnes of food waste. The total value of this food wasted in the UK is estimated at £20 billion, or £307 per person per year. In addition, over 6.9 million tonnes of this food waste were still edible at the time of disposal, meaning there is a large capacity for reduction of avoidable waste, and a diversion and valorisation of inedible food waste.
Household food insecurity
Over 9% people in the UK are currently moderately or severely food insecure. This simultaneous wastage and need for food have made food waste (and food surplus) become irrevocably intertwined with the separate issue of household food security (the provision of safe, affordable fresh food for all).
The overconsumption of food can also be regarded as a waste of food. People who consume in excess of what is needed to maintain good health create negative health impacts for themselves, while imposing costs on the economy and planet (with the UK obesity ‘epidemic’ costing £6bn a year, linked to diet and lifestyle choices.) This cluster seeks to address the complexities of food waste challenges, drawing together key players from across the sector to combine their expertise. N8 AgriFood is well placed to address the multiple issues in order to further understand the links between them and how they influence once another.
Activities & Outputs
Attendance at the REFRESH Final Conference 2019: Fresh ideas to reduce food waste and valorise surplus food, Barcelona, 9 May, 2019. N8 AgriFood delegates represented the UK research community at the conference, this bringing together food waste policy makers, practitioners and researchers from across the EU to share learnings.
Interdisciplinary Food Waste Research Workshop, University of Leeds, February 2019
This event saw researchers from across the University of Leeds and wider N8 AgriFood present their current research and workshop future research projects. Several projects and collaborations were established through this workshop.
Food waste, Loss, Surplus, and Valorisation Innovation Forum, University of Sheffield, July 2018.
The forum brought together academics and practitioners working in the areas of food waste, loss, surplus, valorisation and overconsumption to clarify and narrow down the UK and wider global research agenda into the most important and most impactful research questions. See a review of the event: https://foodwastestudies.com/2018/07/23/food-waste-loss-surplus-and-valorisation-innovation-forum/. A report and policy paper will be released soon.
Reynolds, Christian, et al. “Consumption-stage food waste reduction interventions – What works and how to design better interventions.” Food Policy (2019).
How to make a just food future: alternative foodways for a changing world, 9th-10th of July 2019 at the University of Sheffield, https://justfoodfutures2019.wordpress.com/
FAmiSHEd: Interactions between Food wAste, Surplus and HungEr workshop 27th of June at the University of Leeds
This cluster engages with industry (such as Co-op, Asda, M&S), government and third sector (WRAP, Fareshare, Feedback, The Real Junk Food Project, The Community shop, Foodworks Sheffield, Open Kitchen Manchester, Sustainable Food Cities networks, the Independent Food Aid Network, the Food Ethics Council and Food Power) .
All N8 universities have academics who carry out research into food waste, loss and valorisation.