Eating Greener

Eating Greener

Where things stand

Did you ever scrape a plate of pasta into the bin without feeling even slightly guilty? Or throw away an unused bag of salad leaves? Most of us probably have. After all, it’s food, it’s ‘bio-degradable’, right? What harm can it do? Well, it turns out, quite a lot.

Around a third of the food we produce is wasted worldwide each year – that’s 1.3 billion tonnes of food that’s never eaten and thrown away. Greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and resources that go into the production, processing, transportation and cooking of food are all wasted. And any unwanted or uneaten food taken to landfill, instead of being recycled, releases the destructive greenhouse gas methane into the air – a gas that’s much more harmful to the planet than carbon dioxide.


Billion tonnes of food produced and wasted each year

Left over food next to a chefs knife.

All of this means that food, in all its stages, contributes significantly to climate change – it’s currently estimated to account for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Food waste alone generates about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter.


World's greenhouse gas emissions generated by food waste

Not all of these emissions can be tackled in Scotland, but we can all play our part to reduce them by minimising the environmental impact of our food choices. In Scotland we send over a million tonnes of biodegradable waste to landfill each year. Two thirds of food waste in Scotland comes from households. It’s clear that we can do things differently.  For example, if we stopped all avoidable household food waste, the environmental impact would be the equivalent of taking almost one in five cars off Scotland’s roads.

A car and food bin orbiting around Earth
A graph showing the countries who waste food

By all playing our part when it comes to making sustainable food choices, as well as preventing and recycling food waste, we can help Scotland reach its net zero emissions target and stop contributing to climate change.

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What we're doing

In Scotland, we’re making great progress to reduce our waste emissions. Recycling is more a part of our everyday life and over 60% of Scotland’s waste is now recycled. So far, Scotland has invested close to £30 million in food waste prevention, management and reuse and the amount of waste going to landfill in Scotland has dropped by nearly a third over the past decade, but we need to do more to maintain progress.

A man and child at the kitchen table with a chopping board of food in front of them, and the child is holding an apple.

But this doesn’t mean the problem is solved. We’ve still got a big challenge to meet our target of net zero by 2045. Net zero is when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere and the amount we’re able to take out adds up to zero. To get there, we’ll need to take action as government, businesses and individuals.

The Scottish Government has therefore set an ambitious target to reduce food waste in Scotland by one third by 2025. Our Food Waste Reduction Action Plan sets out the measures that’ll help get us there by reducing the amount of food waste going to landfill. We’ve also got targets to recycle 70% of remaining waste and send no more than 5% of remaining waste to landfill by 2025.

Read more about Scotland’s Food Waste Reduction Action Plan on the Zero Waste Scotland Website.

To meet these challenging targets we support the voluntary action food retail sites are taking to redistribute the food they don’t sell. We have regulations in place to make sure that all food businesses in non-rural areas generating over 5kg of food waste, recycle it. In Scotland, we also treat over 342,000 tonnes of food waste, that allows it to be turned into green energy that powers Scotland’s homes.

We’re continuing to support people by communicating about how to make sustainable choices around food and food waste, and we’re helping more people than ever recycle their food waste - 80% of households in Scotland now have access to a food waste collection service. We’re also investing £70 million to improve local recycling collection infrastructure so it’s easier for householders to recycle as much as possible.

A person putting a banana peel in their food recycling bin.

The Scottish Government is also committed to Scotland becoming a Good Food Nation, where people have access to healthy local foods, our food industry is sustainable and we’re lessening the environmental impact of the food we eat. By all working together to be as sustainable as possible with our food, we’ll tackle climate change and reach Scotland’s net zero emissions target together.

Blog Posts

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Resources and Links

Food waste – Zero Waste Scotland

Find out more about reducing food waste

Love Food, Hate Waste

For recipe inspiration and more ideas to prevent food waste

Seasonality calendar – Scotland Food and Drink

Inspiration for seasonal fruit and veg

Scotland brings so much to the table: On the Table – Scotland Food & Drink

Learn more about Scotland’s food and drink

Food Standards Scotland

Discover all you need to know about food safety

Food and drink – NatureScot

Read more about Scotland’s natural larder