Revealing the Top 10 Reasons Behind Food Waste Generation in the UK

A recent study of 2,000 adults has shed light on the primary factors contributing to food waste in the UK. It appears that individuals generate excessive food waste due to a variety of reasons, including overestimating their appetite, ingredients reaching their expiry dates, and confusion surrounding portion sizes.

Among the top reasons identified were cooking more than necessary, not having enough time to measure ingredients accurately, and inadequate meal planning, which led to uncertainty about the appropriate amount of food to prepare for dinner.

Interestingly, over a quarter of respondents (26 percent) admitted to producing a significant amount of food waste. Additionally, 37 percent believed it was better to serve more food than needed rather than risk having insufficient portions. Furthermore, 23 percent stated that they typically cooked portions that were too large.

A spokesperson representing the long life bakery brand, Baker Street, which commissioned the research in anticipation of Food Waste Action Week, commented, “We have all been guilty of cooking too much or leaving uneaten food on our plates, and the research reveals the many unintentional causes of food waste.”

“Whether it’s overlooking the ‘best before’ dates, confusion regarding ingredients, making assumptions, or preparing meals for a larger group before some individuals drop out, it is easily done.”

“With the cost-of-living crisis affecting everyone and an increasing awareness of the impact of food waste on climate change, it is more crucial than ever to be mindful of what we purchase, serve, and discard.”

The study also revealed that individuals experience emotions such as annoyance (31 percent), frustration (20 percent), and shame (15 percent) when they generate food waste. Similarly, 47 percent acknowledged that food waste is an important global issue, while 46 percent disliked wasting expensive food or ingredients.

Over a third of respondents (34 percent) believed that more should be done to raise awareness about food waste, and 10 percent expressed a desire to reduce their personal contribution to food waste but were unsure how to do so. Notably, 29 percent stated that the cost-of-living crisis had made them more conscious of the ingredients and meals they waste.

The study also highlighted the meals that Brits find most challenging to portion correctly, with spaghetti Bolognese (20 percent), pasta in general (19 percent), roast dinners (15 percent), and stews (13 percent) topping the list. Furthermore, 52 percent admitted that they were unaware of the recommended portion sizes for various dishes.

To combat food waste, 27 percent of respondents have tried using measuring tools like spaghetti measurers, while 23 percent have utilized plates as guides. Baker Street, offering additional information on food waste reduction and combating it, stated, “Bread is one of the most commonly wasted food items, with over a quarter (26 percent) regularly discarding it.”

“Our products are designed to have a longer shelf life, and this year, we are supporting Food Waste Action Week by providing top tips, leftover recipe inspiration, and money-saving ideas to assist the 10 percent who express a desire to reduce their food waste but are unsure how to do so.”

Among the ingredients wasted at least once a month were bags of salad (28 percent), bread (26 percent), and potatoes (21 percent). However, respondents demonstrated greater efforts to avoid wasting meat (33 percent), fish (25 percent), and vegetables (24 percent). Additionally, 24 percent of participants found alternative uses for food that did not involve consumption, such as using it as plant fertilizer (18 percent) or as a facial scrub (eight percent).

Despite these efforts, over a third of Brits (35 percent) admitted to disposing of their food waste in regular rubbish bins.

Top 10 Reasons Behind Food Waste Generation in the UK:

  1. Ingredients reach their expiry dates.
  2. Eyes are bigger than the appetite.
  3. Changes in family or household plans result in uneaten meals.
  4. Uncertainty about the ‘correct’ portion size.
  5. Preference for having more food than required.
  6. Inedible meals due to improper cooking.
  7. Following a recipe designed for more people than intended.
  8. Failure to plan meals ahead of shopping.
  9. Difficulty estimating ingredient amounts.
  10. Lack of time to measure ingredients accurately.