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How much waste is produced in the UK?

22nd March 2018 Print

Businesses need to understand the importance of waste management — regardless of their industry. Sometimes, it is something that eager entrepreneurs don’t consider when they’re setting up their own businesses. We look to find out what different businesses in various industries do to get rid of their waste and how much it is costing them as a whole in the UK.

A main business focus is generating profits and reducing outgoing costs. One way to reduce unnecessary costs is to have your waste effectively managed. This means working with a waste management company that can draw up a profile of your business and calculate the amount of waste your company generates – and creates a more reliable and bespoke collection routine that better meets your business needs.

Industry waste:

According to research, those who operated in the commercial and industrial sector generated 27.7 million tonnes of waste in Britain in 2014. 19.8 million tonnes from this was from England alone with 11.1 million tonnes coming from the commercial sector and 8.7 from the industrial. When looking to the UK entirely, we can see that the commercial sector produced 15.1 million tonnes and the industrial produced 12.6 million tonnes. 

108.8 million tonnes of waste was produced by the construction, demolition and excavation industry in 2012 which increased by 10.6% in 2014. This sector generated over 60% of the UK’s total waste.

In 2012, we saw 24.7 million tonnes of waste and then in 2016, 26.9 million tonnes for those in agriculture. 

Altogether we can see that Britain produced 202.8 million tonnes of waste in 2014, which was a 4.6% increase on 2012.

We’ve teamed up with Reconomy, your waste management experts who have a range of skip sizes for construction projects, to look at different sectors in the UK and see how much general waste they produce as well as food waste.


Hoteliers on a yearly timeframe produce £318 million on food waste alone —  including waste management costs. This sector produces around 289,700 tonnes of waste each year, 79,000 of which is food waste. 


Surprising to most, the healthcare industry only recycles 7% of their entire waste. Food waste costs the healthcare sector £230 million each year - £1,900 per tonne. However, this sector produces 170,300 tonnes of waste each year in the UK and 121,000 of this is food waste.

Restaurants and Pubs

Including food procurement, labour and other waste costs — food waste as a whole costs £682 million annually which calculates to around £3,500 per tonne according to research from Wrap. In relation to restaurants in the UK, we can see that 51% of waste is recycled, 65% of it being packaging.

According to the same source, the UK produces 915,400 tonnes of waste yearly — 199,000 of which is food waste.

Looking at this industry specifically, over 870,000 tonnes of waste is generated, of which 173,000 is food. We found that 63% of this waste is recycled. The average pub can see a cost of £8,000 per year to get rid of food waste from their premises. 

Overcoming the food waste issue

To calculate the amount of food waste your organization is producing on a yearly basis, follow these instructions: 

Begin by separating the food waste and analyse what you’re actually disposing of. Use three different bins to collect this data, waste for food preparation, spoilage and then the leftovers from your customers plates. Use the data you have collected and multiply this figure by the amount it costs per tonne and this will tell you how much it is costing your business each year.

But where does the food waste come from?

- Food preparation – 45%.

- Spoilage – 21%.

- Customer plates – 34%.

There are many methods that businesses can take to reduce the amount of food waste. One problem that restaurants and cafes often shy away from addressing is the size of their menu; the bigger the menu, the more ingredients you buy – and the more that can be wasted. Take a step in the right direction by looking at your customer patterns – what are they ordering? From this, you will be able to remove the dishes that do not add value to your menu. 

One of the key contributors to food waste is portion size, and this is often overlooked. Reducing the size of your meals even slightly is a simple step to take that could help reduce costs for your business.

It’s important to shop wisely for ingredients, and to not be too persuaded by offers and deals. Don’t get sucked in by your supplier’s special offers—it’s only a good deal if you’ll actually use the produce. If not, it will end up going in the bin – costing your business more money in the long run. Buy long-lasting ingredients that are vital in your kitchen such as spices, and buy fresh food only as you need.

Businesses could potentially donate any food waste to homeless shelters as an alternative. You could even donate leftovers to a local farm to feed their animals if appropriate. Both of these could be beneficial to you as a business as you will be reducing waste whilst helping the environment.

What steps are the government taking?

The UK has a goal to become a zero-waste economy, ensuring that products are used to their full capability. This means we will have to be harder on how much we reduce, reuse and recycle and only ever throw things away as a last resort.

Companies across the UK have a duty of care which encourages them to reduce the waste they are generating. This includes keeping waste to a minimum. They are also obliged to sort their waste out in the appropriate way and then store it correctly for when it leaves your businesses building. When this happens, you must complete a waste transfer note for each load of waste that is removed from your location. Make sure that your chosen waste carrier is registered to dispose waste and if they are not, first and foremost you shouldn’t use them.  You then have a duty to report them to Crimestoppers as they will be disposing of your waste illegally and this can be damaging to the environment. By following the above advice, the UK can make a step in the right direction to achieve the goal they have to become a zero-waste economy.