Such a waste

16th March 2007
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One third of the contents of an average British fridge ends up in landfill, a new report from the government's waste and recycling body, Wrap (The Waste and Resources Action Programme), is expected to reveal.

Homes across the UK throw away an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food each year. Most ends up in landfill sites, where its decomposition releases the greenhouse gas methane.

The report aims to remind people that a fifth of UK carbon dioxide is also emitted through the production, processing, storage, transport and sale of food. Many environmentalists think the figure is higher.

In 2005, a study conducted by the government and the food industry returned a similar result. It put the cost of food waste alone at £420 per adult per year. A contemporary study by the BBC put the increase in food waste at 15% per decade.

At the time Lord Haskins, the government adviser on food and farming, said:
"I think it reflects on all of us. It is the worst side of us as consumers. Excess of affluence means that we think food is cheap, and therefore we can throw it away. We are very greedy when we go and shop."

Wrap's latest results will be a further embarrassment to a government that has pledged to reduce waste in line with European directives, and is running out of landfill sites.

Today, Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, told Radio 4:
"We are getting the ecological consequences of a consumerist culture,"

Live in a city and find composting difficult? Read the Ecologist's practical guide to Urban Composting

As landfill space fills up the government is building more incinerators to burn the rubbishy we throw away. Learn more about the real waste problem

This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007