UK takeaway food waste rises during coronavirus lockdown

Food waste generated by UK restaurants dishing up takeaways during the lockdown has risen as a result of consumers’ “unpredictable ordering patterns” during the pandemic, research has revealed.

Unusual fluctuations in demand have led to an increase in food waste generated in takeaway outlets rising from an average of GBP111 per restaurant per week in normal times to GBP148 – equivalent to a GBP16.7m rise for the sector as a whole since lockdown, according to the research.

Nearly half the restaurants surveyed – 45% – said they throw most food waste into the bin. Despite the erratic ordering patterns, consumers appear to be wasting less than they usually would in their own homes, the report found.

Britain’s fondness for takeaway food has created a GBP5bn-a-year business that has ballooned in the past decade. In recent weeks, the options have expanded as many restaurants have turned to takeout and delivery as an alternative to closure.

The research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and the Just Eat app was conducted in two waves – the first in December 2019, followed by a second phase in April to understand how attitudes towards food waste had changed due to the pandemic.

The 2019 data found that a total of GBP1.8bn worth of takeaway food was thrown away in the UK. Of that, GBP376m worth of food waste was binned in takeaway kitchens while households chucked out GBP1.4bn in wasted takeaway food in the entire year.

The 2019 data reveals that last year an average household threw away nearly one tenth (9%) of takeaway food they ordered. One in four consumers (25%) said that more than half the time when they ordered a takeaway, they had leftovers that ended up in the bin. The most common cause was unintentionally ordering larger portions than they needed, with rice and chips the most wasted foods.

The 2019 data also reveals that in restaurants, by far the most common reason for food being thrown away was overproduction of meals (46%). Cooked meals were the most thrown away food type, ahead of unused fresh ingredients.

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