Leading article: Our throwaway culture

Share

It is no secret that an obscene amount of food is wasted in our wealthy, throwaway, societies. But exactly how much? The Government quango, The Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), estimates that some 6.7m tonnes of food ends up in British bins each year, despite the fact that half of it is perfectly edible.

In response, Wrap yesterday launched a new campaign to reduce this kind of waste. It coincides with a push by the Women's Institute to promote such apparently forgotten household management techniques as reusing leftovers and pre-shop planning.

This touches on environmental issues that this newspaper has consistently championed. The energy expended in producing and transporting this wasted food is enormous. And discarded food ends up in landfill where it produces copious amounts of methane. Difficult as it may be to believe, the food waste of the developing world is a contributor to climate change. The food and supermarket industries need to reform their practices. They should cease using spurious "best before" dates that are designed to encourage people to waste edible food. They should also refrain from flooding their stores with "two-for-one" offers that encourage people to buy far more food than they actually need. The resistance of the sector to such calls for moderation are of a piece with their slowness in responding to demands for them to cut down on excess packaging.

The Government should be treating this issue with a little more urgency too. A 1999 EU directive on waste obliges Britain to cut the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill by two thirds by 2020. Though the amount of waste dumped in this way has fallen of late, we are not on course to meet the overall reduction targets. The Government needs to push ahead with plans to allow local councils to penalise those who fail to recycle and reward those who compost biodegradable waste.

It would help enormously too if the Government taxed carbon emissions at an appropriate level. That would push up transport costs and thereby the price of foodstuffs. People would be less inclined to waste something for which they had paid a fair price.

But the particular issue of food waste is, at heart, a challenge for all of us as consumers. In the end, the state cannot force us to save and reuse leftovers. Nor can it compel us to put less in our shopping baskets.

Yet one major incentive for change surely already exists. We are paying £8bn a year for food that we do not eat. Each household could save up to £400 a year by being a little more thoughtful over how we use food. Cutting out this senseless waste makes sense for the bank balance as well as the planet.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Business Analyst - London - Banking - £400-£450

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Banking - London...

Application Engineer - Flow Metering

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Application ...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on