Unwrapping Ireland’s food waste: Bread is Ireland’s most wasted food, with 41% of people reporting they throw away bread

  • Food waste is an issue of high concern for Irish people and they are willing to take action.
  • Main reasons for waste are food passing its Use-By date and forgetting to eat leftovers in time. 
  • After bread; vegetables, fruit and salad are the foods that are thrown out most often in the home.
  • During the Covid-19 lockdown, 29% of people reported wasting less food. 
  • Ireland has committed to halving food waste by 2030 which requires a strong response along every step of the food chain from farm to fork.

New findings from an EPA survey, show food waste is a high priority in Irish households, with 54% of those surveyed reporting this issue as a concern to them. The survey shows that people have a strong sense of their role in preventing food waste and expect retailers; restaurants; and manufacturers to act on food waste.

Mary Frances Rochford, Programme Manager in the Office of Environmental Sustainability said:

“Irish households produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste per year, at a cost of €700 per household. In addition, food waste is a significant contributor to climate change – generating about 8 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and also reduces bills for householders and businesses. Ambitious targets have been set in the new National Waste Policy, for food waste reduction, with the aim of halving food waste by 2030- meeting these targets will require a strong response from every step along the food chain.”

Some of the main findings from the survey include:

  • 9 in 10 agree that consumers have a role to play in preventing food waste. 
  • 3 in 4 people make a list before food shopping, a simple but effective way to avoid unnecessary purchases.
  • Use-By dates (68%) and Best-Before (55%) dates are the main reasons people throw out food are expired.
  • Looking at what gets thrown out, a high number of people said that bread (41%), vegetables (39%), fruit (39%) and salad (32%) are the foods they throw out most often.
  • And 62% of people forget to eat leftovers in time.

The survey findings also show that during the Covid-19 lockdown, people adopted behaviours that reduce food waste, with a 12 per cent increase in people doing a single weekly shop and a 10 per cent increase in people doing meal-planning. The survey reported that 29 per cent of people threw away less food compared with before the lockdown period and so there is a real opportunity to build on the positive behaviours that emerged to continue to reduce food waste.

Commenting on the survey, Odile Le Bolloch of the EPA said:

“Avoiding food waste at home is about changing our behaviours and building good habits. By buying only what we need; planning meals and using leftovers, and storing food properly, we will immediately cut wastage and save money. It makes a big environmental difference too because ‘reducing food waste is the climate action you can do three times a day’. Today is the UN’s International Day of Awareness of Food Loss & Waste, and it is great to see a strong awareness of food waste issues across Ireland, along with a readiness to take action.”

A summary of the survey results is available on the EPA website.

Stop Food Waste is the EPA’s national food waste prevention programme. It provides simple tips to help householders manage food in the home and reduce waste through social media across Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. And the user-friendly website provides great tools and information to help with making the most of food. The EPA is calling on householders to follow the programme on social media and to take actions to stop food waste.

Website:  http://www.epa.ie/and http://stopfoodwaste.ie
Facebook: @StopFoodWaste
Instagram: @stopfoodwaste.ie
Twitter: @Stop_Food_Waste

Results presented are from an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults ages 16+ on attitudes towards food waste and food management behaviours at home. The survey was carried out between 4th and 14th September 2020 by Behaviour & Attitudes Limited, Ireland’s largest independent market research company. Topics covered included concerns about food waste, managing food at home, impact of Covid lockdown restrictions and food dates.

The EPA compiles national data on waste generation and treatment in Ireland through direct survey of industry and waste facilities, and in cooperation with other public authorities. Current estimates indicate that Ireland generated approximately 1.05 million tonnes of food waste in 2018. About half of this came from the processing and manufacturing sector, with the remainder arising from households (252,500 tonnes per year) and the commercial sector including restaurants/food service and retail/distribution (203,300 tonnes per year). National statistics for individual waste streams are on the EPA website.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 29 September as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. On this day, countries around the world are coming together to raise awareness to the importance of the problem and solutions, and to promote collective action towards meeting the SDG target 12.3, to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030, and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains. Further information on events around the world: https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/international-day_en

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