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Wasting food contributes to water waste, report finds

Emily Smoucha
22nd March 2011
Wasting food contributes significantly not just to greenhouse gas emissions, but to water waste, because of the amount of water that goes into growing it, a new study published today finds.
The not-for-profit company Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and WWF released their report titled 'The Water and Carbon Footprint of Household Food Waste' in the UK on World Water Day. It found that when the UK households waste 5.3 million tonnes of food each year, 6.2 billion cubit meters of water are also wasted and 14 million tonnes of CO2 are emitted.

"Although greenhouse gas emissions have been widely discussed, the water used to produce food and drink has been overlooked until recently,"said Liz Goodwin, WRAP chief executive.

Water waste

The amount of water wasted each year is almost double the amount of water households use each year. This is especially concerning because it means six per cent of the UK’s water use each year is being disposed of unnecessarily.

"The world is facing a water resources crunch as population growth, shifting consumption patterns and climate change take effect," said Dr David Tickner, head of Freshwater Programmes WWF-UK. "Many communities are already struggling to make hydrological ends meet, with the poorest people and ecosystems suffering as a result."

CO2 emissions
Not only does wasting food waste water, but it also contributes dramatically to CO2 emissions. The report found that three per cent of the UK’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions are the result of wasting food, the same as seven million cars on the road each year.

"The greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste are greater than those already saved by the total amount of household recycling that takes place in the UK," Goodwin said.

Better management
When the food is discarded, it gives off greenhouse gas emissions that would have been avoided if the food had been eaten, and the water that went into growing the crops was used unnecessarily.

"Responsibility for improving the way in which water is managed lies primarily with governments and other stakeholders in affected river basins," Tickner said. "But companies, policy-makers and consumers in the UK can help. Put simply, wasting less food can, in a small but very significant way, help dry rivers to flow again."


WRAP has already worked with several retailers, food and drink manufacturers and local authorities to prevent 670,000 tonnes of food from being wasted between 2005 and 2009. Doing so has saved 670 billion litres of water.

"We already know that by reducing food waste, householders can save money," Goodwin said. "Now it’s absolutely clear that they can make a big contribution to addressing environmental concerns too."

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Resource efficiency
Sustainable food
Waste & recycling

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Wasting food contributes to water waste, report finds
K households waste 5.3 million tonnes of food each year
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