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Wrap’s Full Of It, Food Waste Is Worth Nothing – It’s Waste, Right?

Wrap – the busybodies who get paid out of our tax money to wibble about waste – fail a very simple economic test here:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]More than £1bn of food destined for UK supermarkets is thrown away or fed to animals before it leaves farms every year, according to a study highlighting the scale of the country’s waste problem.[/perfectpullquote]

People don’t throw away a billion pounds. Even when we’re talking about economy side numbers, that’s real money. If it were worth a £ billion then there would be someone willing to buy it for – say – £900 million. For who wouldn’t want a free £100 million?

That people are throwing it away is all the proof we need that it isn’t worth anything. Because, see, they’ve thrown it away rather than selling it.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Crops rejected by retailers because they do not meet quality standards, fluctuations in demand or problems during storage or packing all contribute to 3.6m tonnes of waste in primary production, more than 10 times the amount thrown away by retailers, says a report by Wrap, the waste-reduction body. The figure includes 2m tonnes of surplus edible food that does not make it to a retailer or other intended buyer, but is diverted to feed livestock or distributed to charities. The rest is disposed of by being ploughed back into fields, composted or used to create energy. [/perfectpullquote]

Feeding cows is waste now, is it?

Sigh. From the same source we get this:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Could the biblical practice of gleaning cut food waste?[/perfectpullquote]

The answer being yes, sure, it would. And would waste resources as we did so.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Farmers across faiths and continents habitually left a little for the needy. In 18th Century England gleaning was a legal right for the landless. But it ebbed away in modern life, eroded by technology and regulation, left to live on quietly in faith led charities wanting to ease societal hunger – until now. Josephine admits thinking about how much food goes unused can leave her feeling overwhelmed. And today a report from the charity Wrap highlights her fears are not unfounded – with 3.6m tonnes of food unused or surplus at farm level. That’s 7.2% of fruit, vegetables, crops or livestock – worth £1.2bn at market. [/perfectpullquote]

What is the cost of that labour to glean those fields?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It is a hot July day in Lancashire and a dozen people are gathering on a dusty farm track two miles outside the market town of Ormskirk. They are gleaners – volunteer harvesters picking what’s left in the ground.[/perfectpullquote]

Minimum wage is currently what, £7 an hour or so? A dozen people working for 8 hours each is £672 of labour. And they’re really going to pick up – at field prices – £700 quids worth of kale?

They are? So why isn’t the farmer employing someone to do this? Because they’re not going to gain that value, are they? So, what we’ve really got here is a method of wasting labour. What is produced by that labour is worth less than the starting value of that labour. This all makes us poorer.

Which is why we don’t glean fields these days, our time is worth more than the paltry value of a few scraps of archaic cabbage.

Leading back to that valuation of the food being thrown away. It’s not worth that £ billion at all, the value is negative. Because the collection and use produces less value that the labour required to collect and use. The basic point being missed by Wrap and such idiots being that the value of something is not gross number but the net, the benefit after we’ve subtracted the costs.

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4 years ago

If it’s fed to animals or used for energy then that’s the value. Why do they find it hard to understand? It’s like they come at this “knowing” the answer and then tried to fit facts around that…

4 years ago
Reply to  Phoenix44

The bit that is even worse (or funnier, if that’s your kind of humour) is “The figure includes 2m tonnes of surplus edible food that … is … distributed to charities.”

Yep, it’s official. Feeding the poor is now a waste.

Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston
4 years ago

They also argued (something like): 25% of lettices are thrown away half the time because farmers grow more in good years than in bad years. With the clear implication that farmers should aim to only grow the amount they grow in bad years, having shortages half the time.

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
4 years ago

The laws of both the conservation of energy and of mass: perhaps Wrap should go back to school and try to wrap their heads around some basic physics, before tackling more subtle issues involving economics.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
4 years ago

Of course with a higher proportion of CO2 in the air (and a claimed increase in average temps) crops are likely to have far higher yields than before. 14%, some say.

I wonder why we pay for WRAP to nad us about stuff that just does not matter. Basically it’s of a similar tone to your mum saying eat your greens there’s starving people in Africa. And just as helpful.

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