How do Tesco's food waste figures compare internationally?

Tesco wastes 30,000 tonnes of food in six months, but how does the UK compare with other countries on food waste?

The number of people using food banks in the UK has tripled in the past year, and household budgets are shrinking as wages struggle to keep up with inflation, and yet in the last six months Tesco’s stores and distribution centres contributed 30,000 tonnes of food waste. New figures revealed by the supermarket show that 68 per cent of pre-packed salad is wasted (35 per cent of which is wasted in the home), as are a fifth of bananas, and 40 per cent of all apples bought. Food waste is costing families around ₤700 a year, the study argued.

According to government figures, food waste costs the UK economy ₤12bn a year, while a report released by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that around 30 per cent of the food produced in the UK doesn’t reach supermarkets, mainly for cosmetic reasons  - which isn’t covered by Tesco’s figures. Once we purchase food, consumers throw between 30-50 per cent of their food away.

All of this means the UK is high on the list of the worst-offenders on food waste, but even in less wealthy countries, food waste is shockingly high. A study by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) released earlier this year estimated that globally, around 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. Per capita, between 280-300kg of food is wasted every year in Europe and North Africa, while around 150kg of food is wasted per capita in Sub Saharan Africa every year (although only 6kg of this is wasted by consumers.)

This isn’t just senseless in a world where 842 million people go hungry, according to the World Food Programme, it is also contributing to climate change. Food wastage is the third largest carbon emitter globally, after the US and China, and the amount of water wasted annually is the equivalent of three times lake Geneva.

In poorer countries, a greater proportion of food is wasted downstream in the supply chain, because of inefficiencies in getting food to markets and storing food, while in wealthier countries like the UK a greater proportion of food is wasted by consumers.

There is a small upshot to these fairly damning statistics – if food waste can be tackled effectively, this means that many of the world’s hungry can be fed without further land clearances or more intensive agriculture. The FAO have said that even if we are only able to reduce ¼ of global food waste, this will be enough to feed the world’s hungry. 

In low-income countries, more work needs to be done to improve farmer’s access to markets, and to increase producers’ and consumers’ abilities to preserve food. In high-income countries, like the UK, WRAP recommends that supermarkets offer a range of pack sizes, as well as clear use-by dates and guidance on freezing and storing food. Consumers, similarly, need to learn to embrace leftovers, and plan their food consumption better to avoid uneaten vegetables and fresh meat perishing at the back of the fridge – we’ll feel financially better for it. And we should probably just give those bags of salad a miss.
 

Food waste is costing families ₤700 a year. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Unite stewards urge members to back Owen Smith

In a letter to Unite members, the officials have called for a vote for the longshot candidate.

29 Unite officials have broken ranks and thrown their weight behind Owen Smith’s longshot bid for the Labour leadership in an open letter to their members.

The officials serve as stewards, conveners and negotiators in Britain’s aerospace and shipbuilding industries, and are believed in part to be driven by Jeremy Corbyn’s longstanding opposition to the nuclear deterrent and defence spending more generally.

In the letter to Unite members, who are believed to have been signed up in large numbers to vote in the Labour leadership race, the stewards highlight Smith’s support for extra funding in the NHS and his vision for an industrial strategy.

Corbyn was endorsed by Unite, Labour's largest affliated union and the largest trades union in the country, following votes by Unite's ruling executive committee and policy conference. 

Although few expect the intervention to have a decisive role in the Labour leadership, regarded as a formality for Corbyn, the opposition of Unite workers in these industries may prove significant in Len McCluskey’s bid to be re-elected as general secretary of Unite.

 

The full letter is below:

Britain needs a Labour Government to defend jobs, industry and skills and to promote strong trade unions. As convenors and shop stewards in the manufacturing, defence, aerospace and energy sectors we believe that Owen Smith is the best candidate to lead the Labour Party in opposition and in government.

Owen has made clear his support for the industries we work in. He has spelt out his vision for an industrial strategy which supports great British businesses: investing in infrastructure, research and development, skills and training. He has set out ways to back British industry with new procurement rules to protect jobs and contracts from being outsourced to the lowest bidder. He has demanded a seat at the table during the Brexit negotiations to defend trade union and workers’ rights. Defending manufacturing jobs threatened by Brexit must be at the forefront of the negotiations. He has called for the final deal to be put to the British people via a second referendum or at a general election.

But Owen has also talked about the issues which affect our families and our communities. Investing £60 billion extra over 5 years in the NHS funded through new taxes on the wealthiest. Building 300,000 new homes a year over 5 years, half of which should be social housing. Investing in Sure Start schemes by scrapping the charitable status of private schools. That’s why we are backing Owen.

The Labour Party is at a crossroads. We cannot ignore reality – we need to be radical but we also need to be credible – capable of winning the support of the British people. We need an effective Opposition and we need a Labour Government to put policies into practice that will defend our members’ and their families’ interests. That’s why we are backing Owen.

Steve Hibbert, Convenor Rolls Royce, Derby
Howard Turner, Senior Steward, Walter Frank & Sons Limited
Danny Coleman, Branch Secretary, GE Aviation, Wales
Karl Daly, Deputy Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Nigel Stott, Convenor, BASSA, British Airways
John Brough, Works Convenor, Rolls Royce, Barnoldswick
John Bennett, Site Convenor, Babcock Marine, Devonport, Plymouth
Kevin Langford, Mechanical Convenor, Babcock, Devonport, Plymouth
John McAllister, Convenor, Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services
Garry Andrews, Works Convenor, Rolls Royce, Sunderland
Steve Froggatt, Deputy Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Jim McGivern, Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Alan Bird, Chairman & Senior Rep, Rolls Royce, Derby
Raymond Duguid, Convenor, Babcock, Rosyth
Steve Duke, Senior Staff Rep, Rolls Royce, Barnoldswick
Paul Welsh, Works Convenor, Brush Electrical Machines, Loughborough
Bob Holmes, Manual Convenor, BAE Systems, Warton, Lancs
Simon Hemmings, Staff Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Mick Forbes, Works Convenor, GKN, Birmingham
Ian Bestwick, Chief Negotiator, Rolls Royce Submarines, Derby
Mark Barron, Senior Staff Rep, Pallion, Sunderland
Ian Hodgkison, Chief Negotiator, PCO, Rolls Royce
Joe O’Gorman, Convenor, BAE Systems, Maritime Services, Portsmouth
Azza Samms, Manual Workers Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Dave Thompson, Staff Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Tim Griffiths, Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Paul Blake, Convenor, Princess Yachts, Plymouth
Steve Jones, Convenor, Rolls Royce, Bristol
Colin Gosling, Senior Rep, Siemens Traffic Solutions, Poole

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.