More than a third of the food produced to feed Londoners each year is wasted, according to a new report urging cities to adopt more sustainable food practices.
The ReLondon and Circle Economy report found that around 6.3 million tonnes of food are produced each year to feed the entire London food system, of which 2.3 million tonnes are lost or wasted.
Of this, 836,000 tonnes of imported food is lost or thrown away before it even reaches London; a further 525,000 tonnes is then wasted by farmers, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and caterers in London; and almost a million tonnes are wasted by London households.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the production, transport, consumption and disposal of London’s food are estimated at 15,483 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalents per year.
The report identified waste and carbon hotspots in London’s food supply chain. The researchers calculated that by reducing food losses and making better use of food waste, as well as switching to healthier and more sustainable diets, food-related consumption-based emissions could be reduced by up to 31% per year.
In response to the report’s findings, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pledged to convene a food supply chain roundtable with representatives from across the food sector to tackle food losses and waste at every stage of the chain.
Khan also plans to use the purchasing power of the Greater London Authority (GLA) to tackle consumption-based emissions in the food supplied across the GLA group, and is working with suppliers and catering contractors to achieve this.
ReLondon, meanwhile, has unveiled three pioneering projects as part of its Food Flagship Initiative – a three-year program in partnership with the GLA and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to demonstrate how a circular economy for food can be achieved in London.
Through the initiatives, brewer Toast Ale will scale the brewing industry’s use of surplus bread by creating a pre-made “crumb” ingredient that other brewers can purchase ready-to-use.
A new venture from The Felix Project envisions the food redistribution charity preparing up to 1.5 million meals a year from surplus food in a professional kitchen.
A third project will measure the impact of targeted local support for the food waste apps Olio and Kitche and show whether they can reduce waste at a local level.
“Adopting more circular approaches to food is essential if we are to achieve the carbon reductions needed to avert climate catastrophe,” said Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon. “London is already home to a wide range of innovative sustainable practices in the food sector – but now we urgently need to scale and expand these models across the capital and beyond.”