Action to slash food waste is accelerating in the UK, with both households and businesses stepping up efforts to reduce the amount they throw away, according to new data from sustainability charity WRAP show.
Total UK food waste fell by almost half a million tonnes in just three years, WRAP’s latest Courtauld Commitment 2025 report reveals, marking a seven per cent per person decline.
The report analyses food waste levels since 2007, finding that 1.4 million tonnes of food have been saved from going to waste each year from UK households since 2007. The annual total saved is enough to fill 150,000 food collection trucks which, placed nose to tail, would stretch from London to Prague, the report calculates.
Further upstream, businesses have also taken action, delivering a four per cent reduction in food waste in the supply chain over the same period.
However, the figures also show that significant room for improvement remains, with UK households still wasting a massive 4.5 million tonnes of potentially edible food every year. The report says households are wasting food equivalent to 10 billion meals, worth £14bn a year or £700 per average family.
“This great news announced today means we are starting to wake up to the reality of food waste, but we are too often turning a blind eye to what is happening in our homes,” said WRAP CEO Marcus Gover. “We are all thinking about what we can do for the environment and this is one of the most simple and powerful ways we can play our part. By wasting less food, we are helping to tackle the biggest challenges this century – feeding the world whilst protecting our planet.”
The report’s analysis assigns the progress to a number of factors, including heightened public awareness through campaigns such as WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste, clearer labelling on food packaging, and more local authorities offering residents separate food waste collections.
The campaign group has launched a series of initiatives to tackle food waste in recent years. The Courtald Commitment was launched in 2016, backed by all the major UK food retailers, alongside brands, food service companies, trade bodies and local authorities. Signatories pledged to cut food waste by 20 per cent and reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2025.
In 2018, WRAP in partnership with IDG launched the Food Waste Reduction Strategy with its aim to more than halve food waste by 2030. More than 150 companies have since signed up to the pledge.
Gover stressed that major steps still needed to be taken by businesses and policymakers to deliver on the long term goal. “We are in a new decade and have just 10 years if we are to honour our international commitment to halve food waste,” he said. “This really matters because it is untenable that we carry on wasting food on such a monumental scale when we are seeing the visible effects of climate change every day, and when nearly a billion people go hungry every day.”
The UK government is also confronting the issue with a £15m food waste reduction unit, building on its Resources and Waste Strategy which set out plans to introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses.
“Each year, tonnes of good-quality, nutritious food needlessly goes to waste, harming our environment and climate. As a world-leader in the fight against food waste, it is good news that we are making a real difference,” said environment secretary Theresa Villiers.
“But while this is encouraging, there is more to be done – and I urge all households, individuals and businesses to consider how they can reduce their own food waste footprint to create a better world for generations to come.”
However, critics have argued that further policy measures are required, noting that many councils still do not offer food waste recycling, while numerous businesses and public sector bodies are still yet to embrace food waste saving best practices.
The new data comes just a day after the Committee on Climate Change published a major new report detailing how reforms to land use will be required to meet the UK’s net zero emission target. It included calls for a renewed focus to curb food waste levels, arguing that reducing food waste would help free up more agricultural land for forest cover and carbon sequestration.