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Lockdown sends takeaway food waste costs soaring by £17m

Food waste

New research has shed fresh light on the ‘true cost’ of food waste from takeaways in the UK, and reveals how the impact of Covid-19 has changed our approach to the amount of food wasted.

Some £1.8 billion worth of takeaway food is thrown away every year in the UK. Of that, £376m worth of food waste occurs in takeaway outlets while households account for £1.4 billion in wasted takeaway food across the year.

Since lockdown measures were introduced however, research by Just Eat has found that UK households have saved an average of £3.2m a week by making the most of the food they’re ordering.

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Meanwhile, fluctuations in demand and unpredictable ordering patterns have led to a slight increase in food waste generated in takeaway restaurants rising from an average of £111 to £148 per week per restaurant, a £16.7m rise for the sector as a whole during lockdown.

Over the past few months, Just Eat has partnered with the Sustainable Restaurant Association to understand the true scale of food waste in the UK takeaway sector.

The pair conducted research in December 2019, followed by a second wave of data collection in April to understand how attitudes towards food waste, both in the household and restaurants, have changed since lockdown.

The latest data, showing the average cost rising to £148 per week, means that food waste has increased slightly from 9% of all waste to 10%, since pre-lockdown.

If this figure is factored in to represent the 65,000 restaurants in the takeaway sector, this comes up to a total of a £16.7m increase in food waste costs since lockdown.

The number one reason for waste was because of “fluctuations/unpredictable consumer ordering patterns”. This was mentioned by over half (54%) of all restaurants.

Disrupted supply chain and business models were on par at 38% and 36% respectively.

45% of restaurants said they throw most food waste into the bin. Other responses showed that restaurants are giving away food too, either to their staff or to vulnerable or homeless people.

Robin Clark, director of global restaurant services and sustainability at Just Eat, said: “With food delivery services more vital now than ever and restaurants operating on tighter budgets, it feels like the right time to help our partners tackle the food wasted in their kitchens.

“There’s lots that Just Eat can do to play our part – from providing insights around ordering patterns to help restaurants better plan their sourcing and preparation to offering some simple-to-follow tips for professional kitchens.

“We’re aiming to encourage positive, sustainable change that will benefit restaurants’ bottom lines and our planet.”

DATA BREAKDOWN

Survey conducted by Prevision in December 2019:

  • Restaurants on average wasted just over £111 per week on food
  • That makes up around 9% of their total spend on food
  • If we apply that to the 65,000 restaurants in the takeaway sector, that represents a food waste bill of £376m per year
  • Nearly three quarters said that they were making more of a conscious effort to reduce waste than in previous years, mostly because of costs and environmental concerns
  • 20% of leftover food was thrown away while 23% went into the food waste bin.
  • The most common reason for food being thrown away was overproduction of meals.
  • The most common food stuff that was thrown away was cooked meals themselves, followed by fresh fruit/veg and cooked chips.

Survey conducted by Just Eat in April 2020:

  • Food waste cost has increased – going from an average of £111 per week to an average of £148 per week. This means that food waste has increased slightly from 9% of all waste to 10%, since pre-lockdown.
  • If we factor this up to represent the 65,000 restaurants in the takeaway sector, this comes up to a total of a £16.7m increase in food waste costs since lockdown.
  • The number one reason for waste was because of “fluctuations/unpredictable consumer ordering patterns”. This was mentioned by over half (54%) of all restaurants. Disrupted supply chain and business models were on par at 38% and 36% respectively.
  • 45% of restaurants said they throw most food waste into the bin. Other responses showed that restaurants are giving away food too, either to their staff or to vulnerable or homeless people.

Reasons for food waste

  • Large portion sizes was the biggest reason for food waste (43%).
  • About a fifth of customers ate the leftovers later but it was more common for them to go in the bin, the food waste bin or the compost
  • Nearly 1 in 4 people more than half the time/ every time had leftovers from a takeaway that ended up in the bin
  • 45% of respondents reported throwing away items not asked for
  • Only 50% of people checked what was in their fridge to make sure they use up anything approaching its use by date before ordering a takeaway

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Tags : food wasteJust EatresearchSustainable Restaurant Associationtakeaways
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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