The European Union wastes about 22 million tonnes of food a year and Britain wastes the most, according to a study by European Commission-backed researchers.
The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at data from six countries to analyse the water and nitrogen resources lost in the EU through consumer food waste.
It found nearly 80 percent of all food waste is “avoidable” and Britain is the worst offender, wasting the equivalent of a tin of beans per person every day. Even Romania, where food waste was the lowest, wastes a lot of food – roughly equivalent to an apple a day.
Averaged over all EU citizens, that amounts to 22 million tonnes of food each year, the study said.
The researchers said educating people about how to shop more carefully and plan their consumption would help cut the amount they throw away, lowering food bills and limiting waste’s impact on the environment.
“In some ways it’s good that this waste is ‘avoidable’, because it means we’re able to do something about it,” said Davy Vanham of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, who led the work. “A lot of food is still ‘good’ but is thrown away when it passes its sell-by date.”
The study – which used data from Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania – found vegetables, fruit and cereals accounted for the bulk of the avoidable food waste, partly because they tend to have a shorter shelf life.
But meat also goes to waste, the study found, and that has a greater impact on nitrogen and water resources.
The research team was able to study only six of the 28 EU member states properly because data from the other countries were not as reliable, Vanham said.