Nutrition in the Bin: A Nutritional and Environmental Assessment of Food Wasted in the UK

Editor(s): Cooper KA, Quested TE, Lanctuit H, Zimmermann D, Espinoza-Orias N and Roulin A.

Today, 4600 kcal/day of food are harvested for every person on the planet; of these, only around 2000 kcal, on average, are eaten. European countries have approximately 3 times more food than required and the USA 4 times more food than needed. Data on calorie losses lacks information on dietary quality, and so it is not possible to know specifically which macro- and micronutrients were lost.

In developed nations, a higher proportion of food is wasted at the retail or consumption stage. The UK currently has the most detailed, directly measured data for food wasted in the home. This includes information on the exact types of food wasted. These data allow calculation of the nutrients within that waste, as well as its environmental impact.   It was calculated that each person wastes the equivalent of 42 daily diets in a year, by individual nutrient, the highest losses were vitamin B12, vitamin C, and thiamin.  Environmental impacts were distributed over the food groups, with wasted meat and fish the single largest contribution. For all environmental impacts studied, the largest contribution came from agricultural production.

This paper provides an approach to create a new level of information from existing food waste data. This new information can guide decisions on waste prevention and healthy eating: supporting the development of strategies for governments, as well as food processing and food retail companies to waste fewer nutrients and reduce their environmental impact