Food waste costs Irish households €700 per year

Food waste costs Irish households €700 per year

Bread is one of the most wasted foods in Ireland, and when it comes to freezing it is the most versatile, the EPA said.

The average Irish household is losing up to €700 a year throwing out food that could be eaten, research has found.

A survey by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that 68% of people still look to use-by dates on food to gauge whether it is usable or whether they should bin it.

Bread is one of the main foods that people throw away, the research showed.

The EPA said freezing food is an “easy way” to stop wasting food, which currently costs up to €700 per year.

Consumers should view freezing food as akin to pausing a television or DVD, the EPA said.

“If you don’t get to eat it, freezing food is an action we can start straight away. Over half of people do not realise that you can freeze food right up to its use-by date, but many of us can reduce our food waste through freezing.

"It is a great way to make food last longer – it acts just like a pause button, allowing food to be eaten at another time,” environmental scientist at the EPA, Odile Le Bolloch, said.

Bread is one of the most wasted foods in Ireland, and when it comes to freezing it is the most versatile, the agency said.

It said the whole loaf can be frozen when bought, or just the last few slices at the end of the bag.

The EPA compiles national data on waste generation and treatment in Ireland through direct surveys of industry and waste facilities.

Current estimates indicate that Ireland generated approximately 1.05m tonnes of food waste in 2018, it said.

About half of this came from the processing and manufacturing sector, with the remainder arising from households at around 252,500 tonnes per year, and the commercial sector including restaurants and food service, and retail and distribution, at around 203,300 tonnes per year.

Organic waste collected in the brown bin accounted for 9% of all household waste managed in 2018, or 137,032 tonnes, the same proportion as in 2017.

When properly segregated, this organic waste gets composted or anaerobically digested to make biogas. However, only 43% of Irish households have access to a brown bin.

EPA studies have shown that more than 60 of household organic waste continues to be placed in the residual or recycling bins.

The agency has launched a new campaign to encourage people to take what it calls “simple action to reduce food waste”.

Mary Frances Rochford of the Office of Environmental Sustainability said: “We are calling on everyone to support and share our Eat It or Freeze It campaign on social media, and take a simple action to stop food waste. Cutting food waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides real savings for householders.” 

The Stop Food Waste website at https://stopfoodwaste.ie aims to educate on freezing foods, food date marking, and resources to help reduce food waste in the home.

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