British restaurants, food manufacturers, shops, and homes waste 12 million tonnes of food every year—75 percent of which could have been avoided. According to a report from the European Commission, this makes it one of the worst in the European Union for sending food to landfill.
While the UK's food waste problem has been linked to unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, and wasteful food manufacturing practices, new research shows that it could also be down to those cornershop ready meals and impulsive Deliveroo orders you supplement your weekly otherwise virtuous weekly meal plan with.
As part of the study, researchers from the University of Sheffield surveyed 928 Brits between the ages of 18 and 40 with a questionnaire on buying and eating habits, hoping to identify a link between household food waste and preference for convenience food.
The survey respondents represented a range of ages, occupational, and educational backgrounds, but as a result of their questioning, researchers were able to split them into five types of consumer: "epicures," "traditional consumers," "food-detached consumers," "casual consumers," and "kitchen evaders."
The least wasteful of these groups were the epicures, who made up 14.5 percent of those questioned and were found to be disinterested in convenience food. The traditional consumers appreciated convenience food's time-saving aspect, but displayed similarly negatively attitudes towards it, particularly the cost. Food-detached consumers, counting for just over 16 percent of the sample, were also pretty disinterested in takeaways.
So, that leaves the casual consumers and kitchen evaders as Britain's prime food waste culprits.
Making up just over a quarter of those questioned, casual consumers were the most reliant on convenience food and also the most wasteful out of all those questioned, displaying what the researchers described as "buy a lot and waste a lot" behaviour. They rarely planned meals in advance and were most likely to snack, as opposed to sticking to set meal times.
These casual cats bought and threw away the most food of all the groups, discarding an average 7.6 percent of all food purchases. They also had higher levels of surplus food from previous meals or partially used products.
Kitchen evaders, accounting for 15.2 percent of the sample, weren't much better, rating convenience food's value for money highest out of all groups. While casual consumers did have reasonable culinary skills, kitchen evaders were shown to be less able, suggesting that their reliance on takeaway curry was fueled by not being entirely sure how to slice an onion.
The researchers hope that this new link between convenience food purchasing and food waste can be used to by the government to inform future food waste initiatives. And with more than half of the food wasted in the UK every year being thrown away from people's homes, it's probably time we took a closer look at what gets left over from those takeaway containers.