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World Food Day Q3 2023

Buy fresh produce loose: how to help reduce household food waste today

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Noel Hendrickson

Caroline Conroy

Specialist for Household Food Waste Prevention, WRAP

About 70% of UK food waste comes from households; that’s 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, we must change how products are packed and sold.

Research from WRAP published last year showed that removing plastic packaging from fresh, uncut fruits and vegetables could reduce plastic and food waste at home. Since then, WRAP has been working with retailers and suppliers on an ambitious pathway to change how we shop and help reduce the 70,000 tonnes of plastics surrounding the fresh fruit and vegetable market every year in the UK.  

Loose produce can reduce household food waste 

The pathway focuses on the longer-term objective of selling loose — and only loose — while recognising its challenges. In 2021, around 15% of fruit and vegetables were sold loose. Targets would see this double to 30% by the end of 2025 and rise to 50% by the end of 2030.  

The availability of loose variesdepending on the type of supermarket, mainly between convenience stores and superstores, plus whether they have till-weighing capability. To provide consistency, retailers are being asked to sell a loose variety of produce by the end of 2024. 

Food retailers and brands can help
customers throw away less food.

How retailers can help consumers  

Retailers have a powerful opportunity to help their customers buy what they need, avoid waste and help fight climate change. Food retailers and brands can help customers throw away less food by encouraging them to: 

• Buy the right amount for their needs 

• Keep what is bought at its best 

• Use more of what they buy 

Impact of small consumer changes 

Several retailers have started selling uncut, fresh produce loose; removing date labels; and providing storage guidance to keep fresh produce in the fridge at home. If all three changes are implemented across just five items — apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumbers and potatoes — 100,000 tonnes of household food waste could be prevented annually.  

This would remove 10,300 tonnes of plastic packaging and a combined emissions equivalent of 130,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Selling the items loose and removing labels could reduce household food waste by the equivalent of 14 million shopping baskets. This is just the beginning, there is more to do for a greater impact on our environment — and our wallets. 

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