74% Turn Lights off But Could Save More Money by Cutting Food Waste : Modern Life is Rubbish: Food Waste Study Finds Only 3% Feel Stigma

Sainsbury's food waste wrap modern life is rubbish
© Sainsbury's

Just 3% of people feel there’s a stigma attached to discarding food waste, according to a new report conducted on behalf UK supermarket Sainsbury’s which also identified the four ‘bin-fluences’ contributing to Britain’s food waste cycle.

The study looked at the food waste patterns of 5000 people to identify the behaviours that lead to UK households wasting seven million tonnes of food each year.

Of this 7 million tonnes of food waste, 4.2 million tonnes are completely avoidable, meaning households could save money while saving the environment. But while food waste has a direct impact on household expenditure, the report found that people want to change their habits, but fail to see the value of saving food compared to other money-saving habits that have become the norm.

Three quarters (74%) of participants now actively turn lights off when we leave a room to save money and over half (55%) admit to turning down the heating. A third (32%) have even changed energy suppliers to keep the household bills down. Collectively though, these changes would save £305 a year, less than half of the £700 spent on wasted food by a typical family each year.

The four behaviours identified in the report that drive household waste are:


The report found that people are not aware of the potential savings they would make with simple behaviour changes such as meal-planning or writing a shopping list. 70% don’t believe that list-writing could save us money, and yet those who do write a list spend £145 less on food annually.

In addition, the majority of Britain’s shoppers believe that only 10% of their monthly food budget will be spent on avoidable food waste, which equates to £400 per year. However, in reality this figure is £700 for the average family.


When it comes to food waste in the UK, people think they know what they’re doing. However, the report found a disconnect between the knowledge people claim to have and their actual behaviour.

95% of people claimed to be confident in freezing food, while 74% believe they are confident cooking meals from leftovers. And yet, nearly two fifths (37%) of people admit to not using their leftovers, despite those who do saving £260 per year.

Meanwhile, other money-saving habits have become the norm, with 74% of people turning the lights off when they leave a room, promising a potential saving of just £15 per year. A third have changed energy supplier, saving an average of £200 a year, which is three and half times less than the annual cost of a family binning food.


Despite the prevalence of food bloggers, chefs and foodie social media stars, when it comes to food waste we are lacking high-profile role models. Four in ten (40%) people admitted they do not know who to look to for guidance on how to reduce their food waste.

What’s more, this figure grows steadily as it moves to younger generations; while only 12% of over 65s wish they knew more about managing and cooking food, nearly half (47%) of those aged 18-24 admit a lack of knowledge in the kitchen, demonstrating a need to inspire younger people when it comes to reducing food waste.


The report also noted that over the years, food has become more accessible, and more experimental. This cultural shift is much more prominent in those under 35, with more than half (55%) of Millennials identified as ‘living-to-eat’ rather than ‘eating-to-live’. This falls to a third (33%) amongst those over 35.

But desire to explore the latest foodie trends is also contributing to food waste. 86% admit to buying ingredients for one specific recipe, knowing they will struggle to use it elsewhere.

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe: “We know our customers are concerned about food waste in their own homes, which is why we’ve committed £10 million to help tackle the issue as part of our Waste less, Save more programme. Wasting food has become so normal there is now no stigma attached to throwing food away.

“This report identifies the four behaviours that drive household food waste and, now we know these, we can focus our efforts on helping people actually change their behaviour.

“The report also shows that people are cost-conscious and making concerted efforts to turn off lights and minimise energy use. However, people are still overlooking the much bigger savings that could be delivered by simply throwing away less food, and hopefully our campaign will help people waste less food and save more money.”

Richard Swannell, Director at WRAP: “It’s great that people are switching off lights, I hope these new insights from Sainsbury’s helps switch more people on to the issue of reducing food waste.

Wasting food costs £700 a year for the average family, that’s money that could be spent on everyday essentials. Both Sainsbury’s and WRAP, through its Love Food Hate Waste campaign, want to change the current status quo and help people see the benefits in shopping smarter, and making the most of their food.”

The full report can be downloaded HERE

Read More

Five Point Plan to Increase Food Waste Recycling

An action plan intended to boost both the quantity and quality of food waste recycling from household and commercial waste collections was launched today at the ADBA Conference in Birmingham, UK.

New International Food Waste Standard Launched in Copenhagen

At the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit, taking place in Copenhagen today, a number of international organisations announced that they are to join forces on the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard.

New Regulations for Food Waste Composting and AD in Rhode Island

New regulations effecting food waste recycling and composting facilities, including a tiered structure for composting based on the quantity of waste handled, have been introduced by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.