Bread the Main Culprit as Brits Waste 4.4m Tonnes of Edible Food Each Year

A recent study revealed the shocking figures that the British public throws away 4.4million tonnes of food every year that is actually perfectly edible, with bread providing the majority of that astounding figure.

A staple part of most people’s diets, bread forms the basis of the majority of meals, featuring at breakfast time in the form of toast, at lunchtime as sandwiches and then again at dinner time as the perfect accompaniment to your stew or chips.

Despite this, 32% of bread purchased by British households is disposed of while it’s still in date, equating to 680,000 tonnes of what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (DEFRA), called “affordable bakery waste” is disposed of annually. That roughly translates to £1.1bn and around 80% of the wasted bread is from packs that were opened but not finished.

Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign places the blame on the white sandwich loaf, also known as Chorleywood Bread. The white sandwich loaf accounts for 80% of bread sold in the UK, and Young says “People just don’t care about it anymore. None of the bread that is thrown away is ‘real’, homemade, or artisan bread. If bread has a good amount of flavour and costs more, it is less likely to be wasted.”

Anti-food waste organisation Wrap say that the majority of bakery products are thrown away because they haven’t been used in time, either before going beyond their best before date or just being judged as “gone off” by the customer. The research showed that consumers think bread only lasts “between three and four days”, yet experiments have shown that there were “little or no differences in taste” between two and six-day old bread.

Wrap teamed up with British bakers Hovis back in 2008 to see why people wasted pre-packaged bread and bakery goods so freely, and the overwhelming response was that “consumers buy far more than they need.”

They were the words of Ian Bowles, group Head of Sustainability at Premier Foods – the owners of Hovis. He went on to say that “It’s a reasonably low-priced commodity and rather than run out they prefer to have too much. It’s like milk in the morning, you don’t want to run out so you get plenty.”

Mark Newman, who owns his own bakery in Bristol, has given a few suggestions for prolonging the life of your bread, with one of the most popular storage solutions actually proving to be more detrimental than beneficial.

“The worst thing you can do is keep your bread in the fridge,” he said. “The cold makes it go stale very quickly, but you can refresh bread by splashing it with a bit of cold water and reheating it to bring the crust back to life.

“Sourdough is a good alternative to your regular dough as it keeps for up to a week, or you must ensure that you keep it in a bread bin or cloth bag to keep it fresh. Freezing your extra loaves until you need them is so simple but people just don’t do it. You keep all the freshness once it has defrosted.”

Household Purchased Food Waste (source: DEFRA)

Bread – 32%

Vegetables – 24%

Potatoes – 24%

Fruit – 20%

Cereal – 17%

Desserts – 14%

Meat and Fish – 13%

Dairy and Eggs – 8.5%

Soft Drinks – 7.1%

Alcoholic Drinks – 6.3%

At URBAN eat, the target is zero food waste to landfill and all dry recyclables are segregated and recycled. These were achieved during 2011, with the help of WasteSolve (a division of Cawley’s) with between 35 and 40T per month of card and plastic recyclables fully recycled.

Image via Jeffrey W