What Does $20 Billion In Wasted Food Look Like?

In Britain, the amount of yearly food waste can fill London’s Wembley Stadium.

Here’s something humiliating.

I’m a Brit. (That’s not the humiliating bit. Bear with me). We’re so careless with our groceries that we throw away around a third of them each year – at a total cost of $20 billion. Appalling, dreadful and…unreal. Yes, that’s the word. Look at that figure: $20 billion. Try to imagine it for a second, there in the room with you. Bet you can’t. I’ll bet even the Donald would struggle with it. It’s an abstraction that means nothing except to economists and…well, that’s about it.

What’s so may-the-ground-swallow-me-up humilating is this: the people of WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign just made that number real. In a number of events across the north of England over the last six months, they’ve  taken the amount of food the average British household tosses away in one year, cooked it up, and fed it to 1,000 hungry students. Of course, even students would draw the line at eating that banana I threw away in January, so this food was donated by regional food distribution charities like Food Aware and Real Aid, and the chosen menu focused on big, hearty dishes like vegetable curry and rhubarb crumble. Think Jamie’s School Dinners and you’d also bag the educational side of it – each event featured demonstrations on ways to turn limp leftovers into full-flavored feasts.

Back to $20 billion. How much food is that? Well, you can’t fit it into one room. In fact, you’ll need to fill London’s Wembley Stadium.

…8 times.

That’s a lot of food.

Images: Cushdy, mhaller1979.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.