The recent news that East of England Co-op will be selling food past its ‘best before’ date at a massive discount has helped raise awareness of the significant level of food waste in the UK. Not only could this move put pressure on other retailers to do the same, but it has shone light on the need for all of us to not throw away perfectly good food. So why is it so important to produce less food waste?
More Food Waste Costs More Money
Perhaps the most pragmatic reason for needing to reduce the nation’s food waste is an economic one. Every year 7.3 million tonnes of perfectly edible food is thrown into the bin, equivalent to around £16 billion. This is food that has gone past its ‘best before’ date – not ‘use by’ – and can still be eaten without a risk to health.
By selling the food there can be cost savings at all stages of the transaction. Firstly, the business itself – in this case Co-op – will save a significant amount of money as they will lose less in sales and spend less in waste disposal costs. Secondly, the consumer can purchase perfectly edible food at a fraction for the normal cost – just 10p at a Co-op – which could prove essential to low income households. Finally, overall waste disposal costs that are funded by taxes will be lower due to the reduced quantity.
The Ethical Impact of Wasting Food
A major reason for needing to reduce the food waste over the whole of the UK is the ethical impact it has. One of the most pressing social issues in the UK is the growing divide between rich and poor, which is leaving more families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. The growing use of food banks and widespread homelessness is a direct result of this divide.
By wasting so much edible food it raises many questions about why so many are having to struggle to afford to eat when there is so much available. By making a large portion of this food waste available for an incredibly low cost it opens up the potential for more people to afford a decent meal. It can also have a fundamental impact on people’s attitudes on how they themselves should make use of what they have available instead of simply throwing it away and buying more.
Improving Our Understanding of Food
A more aspirational after effect of reducing food waste and selling food past its ‘best before’, is that to could help improve the populations general understanding of food. By knowing the difference between expired food and food that is just less flavoursome, it could help foster ingenuity when it comes to cooking at home. Much of our eating habits have come down to convenience, but by having very low-cost food that is still edible it may encourage people to home cook dishes and get the best out of the ingredients.
Not only are there culinary benefits but it may also help improve people’s knowledge about nutrition. The impact of cooking our own meals will make us more conscious of want we are eating. With obesity related illness being a major issue amongst the population – and subsequently the National Health Service – making people more aware of their meals could have a positive impact.