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UK households reduce takeaway food waste by £3.2 million a week during lockdown - but waste in restaurants rises

Article Date: 2020-05-13

Just Eat and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) have today released research which shines a 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.

The new research finds a huge £1.8bn 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 £1.4bn in wasted takeaway food across the year.

Since lockdown measures were introduced however, 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. 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.

In response to the findings, Just Eat and the SRA have come together to encourage consumers to build on the positive habits they’ve adopted in recent months - with tasty new recipes for dishes they can cook at home to use up the most commonly wasted takeaway food items - from chips and noodles to naan bread - and tips and tricks on how to safely store and use up the leftovers from their favourite foods. For restaurants, Just Eat is giving its partners insights and data to help them better anticipate lockdown fluctuations, and sharing guidance from the SRA and WRAP’s Guardians of the Grub campaign to help them evaluate their kitchen set ups and be as food waste savvy as possible.

Over the past few months, Just Eat and the SRA have been working together to understand the true scale of food waste in the UK takeaway sector and conducted joint research in December 2019. This was followed by a second wave of research in April to understand how attitudes towards food waste, both in the household and restaurants, have changed since lockdown.

The 2019 data from Just Eat reveals that an average household threw away nearly one tenth (9%) of takeaway food they ordered. One in four consumers (25%) said that more than half the time they ordered a takeaway, they had leftovers that ended up in the bin. The most common cause of this was unintentionally ordering larger portions than they needed (43%), with rice and chips the most commonly wasted foods.

The 2019 data also reveals that in restaurants, by far the most common reason for food being thrown away was overproduction of meals (46%). Cooked meals were the most thrown away food type (50%), ahead of unused fresh ingredients (43%).

Just Eat is encouraging its restaurant partners to use Too Good To Go, an app which helps businesses reduce food waste by enabling them to sell their surplus food to consumers for a discounted price.

Ben Carter, Global Director of Restaurants & Strategic Partnerships at Just Eat said: "Our research shows that tackling food waste is one of the most effective ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, with the added benefit of saving everyone money too. With coronavirus changing so much about the way we all live, this felt like an important time to encourage positive behaviour change and support our partners and customers to tackle food waste both in the restaurant and at home.

"Many UK takeaway restaurants and consumers are already taking this seriously and we're committed to using our scale to support them to go even further. From providing top tips to reduce food waste to sharing creative recipe ideas, we want to ensure everyone can enjoy their favourite takeaway with no waste."

Robin Clark, Director of Global Restaurant Services and Sustainability at Just Eat, said: "Reducing avoidable food waste is one of the easiest ways we can tackle the carbon footprint of takeaway meals and make a positive impact on the environment. 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.”

Andrew Stephen, Chief Executive of the SRA, said: ”No business in its right mind wants to see its core product end up in the bin, especially not when it’s costing almost £400 million a year and contributing to a carbon footprint larger than the global aviation industry.

“It’s so easy to over order and under think when ordering in, so we hope that some easy to follow food waste hacks will help the nation turn tonight’s takeaway into tomorrow’s lunch and maintain diners’ newfound awareness of how they eat and order.”

Peter Maddox, Director WRAP, said: “The findings from Just Eat’s survey are useful insights into some of the triggers of food waste within the takeaway sector. I know from our own research that people are more concerned about the cost food waste has on their pockets and the planet. We are pleased to support Just Eat and the SRA with resources from our Guardians of Grub campaign for businesses to freely use, as well as advice for those at home from Love Food Hate Waste.”

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