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Just Eat and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) have today released research which shines a light on the ‘true cost’ of food waste from takeaways in the UK, and reveals how the impact of COVID-19 has changed our approach to the amount of food wasted.

The new research finds a huge £1.8bn worth of takeaway food is thrown away every year in the UK. Of that, £376m worth of food waste occurs in takeaway outlets while households account for £1.4bn in wasted takeaway food across the year.

Since lockdown measures were introduced, Just Eat has found that fluctuations in demand and unpredictable ordering patterns have led to a slight increase in food waste generated in takeaway restaurants rising from an average of £111 to £148 per week per restaurant, a £16.7m rise for the sector as a whole during lockdown.

In response to the findings, Just Eat is giving its restaurant partners insights and data to help them better anticipate lockdown fluctuations. Guidance from the SRA and WRAP’s Guardians of the Grub campaign can help food service operators evaluate their kitchen set ups and be as food waste savvy as possible, beneficial for both restaurants’ budgets and the environment.

During lockdown, UK households have started to become more conscious about how they order and eat takeaways, helping them to save an average of £3.2m a week by making the most of the food they’re ordering.

To encourage consumers to build on the positive habits they’ve adopted in recent months, Just Eat and the SRA are offering tasty new recipes for dishes consumers can cook at home to use up the most commonly wasted takeaway food items - from chips and noodles to naan bread - and tips and tricks on how to safely store and use up the leftovers from their favourite foods.

Over the past few months, Just Eat and the SRA have been working together to understand the true scale of food waste in the UK takeaway sector and conducted joint research in December 2019. This was followed by a second wave of research in April to understand how attitudes towards food waste, both in the household and restaurants, have changed since lockdown.

The 2019 data from Just Eat revealed 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 (50%), ahead of unused fresh ingredients (43%).

Just Eat is encouraging its restaurant partners to use Too Good To Go, an app which helps businesses reduce food waste by enabling them to sell their surplus food to consumers for a discounted price.

The 2019 data also revealed that 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 they ordered a takeaway, they had leftovers that ended up in the bin. The most common cause of this was unintentionally ordering larger portions than they needed (43%), with rice and chips the most commonly wasted foods.

Robin Clark, Director of Global Restaurant Services and Sustainability at Just Eat, said, 'Reducing avoidable food waste is one of the easiest ways we can tackle the carbon footprint of takeaway meals and make a positive impact on the environment.

'With food delivery services more vital now than ever and restaurants operating on tighter budgets, it feels like the right time to help our partners tackle the food wasted in their kitchens.

“There’s lots that Just Eat can do to play our part - from providing insights around ordering patterns to help restaurants better plan their sourcing and preparation to offering some simple-to-follow tips for professional kitchens. We’re aiming to encourage positive, sustainable change that will benefit restaurants’ bottom lines and our planet.”

Andrew Stephen, Chief Executive of the SRA, said, ”No business in its right mind wants to see its core product end up in the bin, especially not when it’s costing almost £400 million a year and contributing to a carbon footprint larger than the global aviation industry.

“Now is an opportune time for operators to review their menu and simplify processes and design out waste. We're delighted to work with Just Eat to provide takeaway operators with top tips and guidance on how they can tackle food waste.'

Peter Maddox, Director WRAP, said, “The findings from Just Eat’s survey are useful insights into some of the triggers of food waste within the takeaway sector. I know from our own research that people are more concerned about the cost food waste has on their pockets and the planet.

'We are pleased to support Just Eat and the SRA with resources from our Guardians of Grub campaign for businesses to freely use, as well as advice for those at home from Love Food Hate Waste.”

(source: Just Eat & SRA, image: pexels)