Report on EU food waste

A recent study published in the Journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at data from six countries to analyse the water and nitrogen resources lost in the EU through consumer food waste. The research found on average each person in the EU wastes an average of 123 kilograms (kg) of food each year, or 16% of all food reaching consumers. Almost 80% (97 kg) is avoidable as it is edible food. The UK was found to be the worst offender, wasting on average 153kg per year, equal to 400g per day.

Averaged for all EU citizens, this translates into 47 million tonnes of avoidable food waste annually. The JRC scientists who carried out the research also calculated the water and nitrogen resources associated with the avoidable food waste, by means of the water and nitrogen footprint concepts.

The study, 'Lost water and nitrogen resources due to EU consumer food waste', is based on data from six Member States, as other EU countries do not have or have only partial data. The six include the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania, where consumer patterns are very different due to differing lifestyles and purchasing power. Consumer food waste consists of food waste at the household level (which is the major part) and food waste in the catering sector (e.g. restaurants, schools). Taking uncertainty into account and providing an estimate of the possible statistics range, the study estimated the amounts of total and avoidable food waste, differentiating between different food product groups. Avoidable consumer food waste of the average EU citizen, for example, is within the range of 45 to 153 kg per capita per year.

  • Total consumer food waste averages 123 kg/cap/yr, i.e. 16% of all food reaching consumers.
  • Avoidable consumer food waste averages 97 kg/cap/yr, i.e. 12% of all food reaching consumers.
  • Avoidable food waste represents by far the largest part of total food waste.
  • Particular product groups are proportionally wasted more than others, especially vegetables, fruit and cereals. A major reason for this is that they have a relatively short shelf-life which means consumers often do not use them in time. Another reason is the fact that they are generally cheaper per weight unit as compared to other product groups like meat. Therefore consumers often tend to overpurchase the former.
  • There is a very wide range between minimum and maximum amounts of both total (from 55 to 190 kg/cap/yr) and avoidable (from 45 to 153 kg/cap/yr) food waste. This is due to the fact that lifestyles and purchasing power can differ substantially between Member States.
  • Even the lowest amount of avoidable food waste (45 kg/cap/yr) represents a substantial quantity. It is roughly equal to the weight of an apple a day or, for all the citizens in the EU together, 22 million tonnes of food each year. A maximum of 153 kg/cap/yr is equal to about 420 g/cap/d (i.e. a small loaf of bread a day) or for all the citizens in the EU together, 75 million tonnes of food each year. Consequently, reducing food waste should be a concern for every consumer.

Full report HERE

Published: 24/08/15
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