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Article – Cut the scrap: How we’re tackling London’s food waste footprint

This week is Food Waste Action Week – an annual campaign to support citizens in developing the tools they need to cut food waste in their homes.

Food waste has a carbon footprint and contributes to the climate emergency. Globally, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the United States1.

Here in London, food accounts for approximately 10% of the city’s consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions – in part because of the huge amount of it that’s wasted. A whopping 33% of the food produced to supply London is lost or wasted, 67% of which could have been eaten.

ReLondon’s own research has shown that if London reduced food waste by 50%, the city could reduce its food emissions by more than 10% year on year.

To achieve this, we’ve been working on a number of collaborative London-wide interventions that reduce food waste and, in those situations where food waste is unavoidable (e.g. orange peels or coffee grounds), to create something valuable from it to keep it from ending up in landfill or being incinerated.

Here are some of the ways we’ve worked to support Londoners, London’s local authorities and small businesses to reduce their food waste footprint:

  • Empowering Londoners to stop their food going in the bin: Our pan-London campaign Eat like a Londoner gives Londoners practical tips and tricks to reduce food waste, eat more sustainably and save money. The campaign is now in its third phase and we’re always keen to work with new partners and collaborators (e.g. retailers and hospitality businesses) to help us scale the impact of what we’re doing.
  • Helping councils with better food purchasing: We’ve been collaborating with the One World Living theme of London Councils’ Climate Programme to develop a Food Purchasing Commitment for local authorities. Those who join commit to reduce the environmental impact of the food they purchase across their services, including the amount of food that is wasted, with a target to reduce food waste across council operations by 50% by 2030. The London boroughs of Hackney, Hounslow, Lambeth and Newham have already signed – could your council be next?
  • Forging public-private collaborations between local authorities and food start-ups and innovators: We partnered with the London Borough of Bexley and two circular economy SMEs, Kitche and Olio, to develop and deliver an innovative borough-wide campaign to help Bexley residents cut their edible food waste and share surplus food. During the six-month pilot project, two tonnes of food were shared that would otherwise have gone to waste.
  • Supporting small circular food businesses to grow their innovative food waste reduction solutions: ReLondon is funding 10 businesses to upscale their operations and impact to support London’s transition to a more circular, sustainable food system. Each of the selected businesses is a London-based circular start-up or early-stage business that is pioneering circular food solutions that help to reduce food waste; create value from food waste or surplus by-products; or provide access to locally grown, sustainable food.
  • Training food safety officers to talk to businesses about food waste reduction: In a first of its kind pilot, we’ve been training environmental health professionals to talk to hospitality businesses about how to reduce their food waste. So far, over 50 businesses have received information about practical ways in which they can reduce their food waste, and seven businesses have been supported to undertake a food waste audit.

All of these initiatives and the impact they’re achieving could be scaled up and strengthened through partnerships. If you’re a local authority, business, academic institution, philanthropic partner or community-based organisation, please do get in touch – we’re always looking for new partners who share our mission and want to join us in creating a city where food is never wasted. To explore collaboration opportunities, get in touch with

Rachel Shairp is the food lead at ReLondon.

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