Published on 25th March 2020


We put our questions about food waste to Helen White, special advisor on household food waste at WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme). With food shortages in the supermarkets, it is perhaps a good time assess our waste habits in the kitchen.   

How did the Love Food Hate Waste campaign get started? 

“Love Food Hate Waste was launched in 2007 to inspire the nation to bin less food! The campaign was based on the findings of the first research of its kind into UK household food waste, conducted by WRAP. We’ve been working hard on the issue ever since and in January this year announced a half-a-million tonne decrease in total food waste between 2015 and 2018 – a seven per cent reduction per person or enough to fill the Albert Hall 10 times. But there’s more to do. We still waste 6.6 million tonnes of food from UK homes every year; 4.5 million tonnes of that is good food that could have been eaten.”  

What are the most commonly wasted foods? 

“Would you believe the food we waste the most of in UK homes is the potato? We waste 4.4 million whole potatoes every single day, which is an astounding number! The main reason for wasting potatoes is ‘personal preference’; this means not eating a food due to allergies, health reasons or simply because you don’t like it. In the case of the humble spud a lot of people don’t eat the skins, which of course are perfectly edible. There are so many ways to stop potato peels going to waste, whether you leave them on when you make mash or roast them separately for home-made crisps! Every small action adds up to a big difference.  

“Another food we waste an awful lot of is bread. 20 million slices end up in the bin every day from UK homes – that’s a lot of sandwiches! A simple tip to save your bread is to freeze it. Bread freezes beautifully, and you can toast it straight from frozen. Pretty much anything goes with or on toast, so pop the loaf in the freezer and try ‘things-on-toast’ whenever you need a quick and easy lunch.”  

What are the main reasons for wasting food? 

“The biggest reason we waste food is that we don’t use it in time. Forty per cent of food is wasted because, basically, it went off before we could eat it. To avoid this, remember that you can freeze your food right up to and including the ‘use by’ date – this is like pressing pause so your food is ready when you need it.  

“Other reasons include personal preference (like not eating bread crusts and ends, or fatty bits of meat or skin), as well as cooking, preparing, or serving too much. The Love Food Hate Waste website includes a handy Portion Planner tool to help you serve up the perfect amount.”   

What is the cost of all this waste, either financially or environmentally? 

“Financially, the cost to UK households of binning good food that could have been eaten is £14 billion each year, which works out at £210 for every person or about £700 a year for a family with children.   

“Environmentally, wasting food has a huge impact. If food ends up in landfill, it produces methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) when it breaks down. But every time you throw food away, you’re not just wasting the food, but all the resources – and carbon – that went into growing, producing and transporting it, which really adds up.   

“According to WRI, food loss and waste is responsible for over eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – six times that of aviation. Eating and not binning food is probably the quickest and easiest way we can all have a positive impact on the environment.”  

Can you give us some top tips for saving food waste at a household level? 

“One of the best tips I can give you is to ‘chill the fridge out’! And by that, I mean making sure your fridge temperature is set to 0-5C, as your food will stay fresher for longer if your fridge is set within this range.   

“The average fridge temperature in the UK is 6.6C. Set lower, our research shows that the storage life of most chilled foods would increase typically by three days. The potential annual savings of both lowering fridge temperature and refrigerating foods such as apples, which are usually stored at ambient temperature, is £200 million, and a net reduction of 210,000 tonnes CO2e [carbon dioxide equivalents] – and that’s taking into account the additional energy use required to turn the fridge down.   

“You can also become a storage pro to stop food being wasted. We’ve got a great food storage A–Z on our website to show you where is best to keep everything fresh – for example, did you know that bananas and uncut pineapples should not be stored in the fridge?”  

Do you use up leftover vegetable peelings and if so how? 

“I tend not to peel potatoes or carrots – I just give them a scrub. If I do peel veggies, I usually make the skins into tasty snacks by crisping them up in a little oil and sprinkling with salt or paprika.”  

How should we be storing leftovers? 

“Leftovers can go in your fridge to save for another day. If it’s a meal, let it cool down first, then box it up and keep it at 0-5C for up to two days. You could also freeze it – perfect for an emergency dinner! Defrost in the fridge and re-heat only once until piping.  

“As for leftover ingredients, our food storage A–Z can show you how to store them. For example, if you’ve used half an avocado and want to save the other half for another time, keep the stone in, as this will help keep it fresh.”