Signs of wasted food in UK homes on the rise as lockdown eases

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The easing of lockdown measures could see increased levels of wasted food in the UK, warns new research.

Conducted by WRAP in June, the research shows that although people have found ways to manage their food better, self-reported waste has increased by 30% compared to the early stages of lockdown.

The figures in the new Food waste and COVID-19: Lockdown easing-report show that levels of wasted food have begun to rebound, with the average self-reported amount across four key products (bread, milk, potatoes and chicken) currently at 18%, up from 14% in April.

However, the positive news is it remains significantly below pre-lockdown levels, as in November 2019 people reported wasting an average of 24% of these items.

Combined with the added time pressures of some ‘normal’ life resuming, such as more people returning to places of work and some pupils returning to school in June, people’s commitment to wasting less food is waning.

Whilst the research shows how effective Love Food Hate Waste can be in helping citizens, it cannot succeed without significant and sustained support from retailers, brands, local authorities and others.

WRAP is encouraging all organisations involved in food and drink to help amplify this campaign and reach an even broader audience.

WRAP has conducted two phases of research during lockdown, measuring the impact of restrictions on our relationship with food.

In the first phase in April, people reported adopting on average 6 behaviours to manage food better, and a self-reported reduction in wasted food compared to pre-lockdown levels.

Levels of reported food waste are notably higher among those who worked fewer hours during lockdown and have now returned their usual working pattern (62% classify as having higher levels of waste, compared to the national average of 27%).

The same is true for those who worked from home or were furloughed during lockdown and have now returned to ‘normal’ (53% and 40%, respectively).

Those with children who returned to school post-lockdown also report higher levels of food waste (58%).

Encouragingly, the new research shows an increase in how many behaviours people are utilising to manage their food better – an average of 7 per person.

Furthermore, 70% of people want to maintain at least some of these behaviours once life returns to ‘normal’.

Pre-shop planning is the behaviour people can most easily see themselves continuing after lockdown, and it is one measure that will help those with time constraints.

Of those who have been checking their cupboards, fridges, and freezers before visiting the shops, three in five said they will maintain these actions, over half of people who have been writing lists will continue to do so.

According to the research, WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste messages have been ‘essential’ in helping people try out new food management methods.

People who saw their Food Storage A–Z initiative, for example, adopted 12 good behaviours in lockdown, which is almost double the national average.