A Danish family throws out 105 kilos of edible food every year
A new report from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency suggests that a typical Danish family, living in a detached house, throws out around 42 kg of edible food every year. The study shows that fruit and vegetables in particular are being thrown out.
The Danish Environmental Protection Agency has surveyed domestic waste from around 800 households in Denmark:
“This is the first time we have been able to put a figure on how much of the waste we throw out we could have eaten. As a society, the fact that so much good food ends up in the waste bin is a huge waste of resources and it is therefore vital to give Danes the information they need to help them reduce their food waste,” says Anne-Mette Lysemose Bendsen, civil engineer at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.
The total amount of food waste, which also includes actual waste such as egg shells, chicken bones and orange peel, amounts to 76 kg per person per year. However, of these 76 kilos, 42 kilos could have been eaten. This corresponds to 105 kg of good, edible food per household per year for an average household in a single-family dwelling consisting of two adults and one or two children.
The report shows that it is fruit, vegetables, bread and cakes that are typically thrown in the bin. This is food we have bought but haven’t managed to prepare or eat, for example, before it has passed its sell-by date.
“It’s simple common sense for individual families to eat the food they buy in the supermarket rather than throwing it out. Nevertheless, we are still throwing out significant quantities of food and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency is therefore launching a campaign focusing on what Danes can do themselves to reduce their food waste,” says Anne-Mette Lysemose Bendsen.
The Danish Environmental Protection Agency is relaunching the campaign ‘Use more – waste less’. The campaign focuses primarily on food waste and gives five tips on how people can reduce their own food waste:
- Only buy the food you need
- Store the food correctly
- Only prepare the food that will be eaten
- Save leftovers and use them later
- Be aware of use-by labels
The campaign website at www.brugmerespildmindre.dk (in Danish) contains recipes for using leftovers and more information, advice and tips.
In 2012, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to investigate the amount of food waste and other waste produced by people living in multi-storey dwellings. The agency also wants to survey food waste from a number of companies in the retail, restaurant and catering sectors.
In the autumn, the focus of the ‘Use more – waste less’ campaign will switch to exchanging and repairing items such as clothing and furniture.
The amount of food waste that could have been eaten has not previously been investigated at national level in Denmark. This is now happening in conjunction with a survey of domestic waste from detached houses. Results of the investigation:
- On average, every person living in a detached house produces 184 kg of domestic waste per year .Food waste amounts to 42 kg. This corresponds to 105 kg per household per year for an average household in a one-family dwelling.
- The total food waste is in the order of 76 kg per person per year. Of this, 42 kilos could have been eaten.
- The investigation shows that fruit and vegetables in particular are being thrown out, even when they are still edible.
- Four-person households (probably the standard family unit) throw out a lot of processed food- in particular leftovers from dinners and lunches. The same does not apply to large families of more than four people, however.
- Single people throw out the most non-processed food, which may be due to them not being able to buy small enough portions.
- Edible food waste (food which can be eaten) constitutes 23% of total domestic waste, and food waste (both edible and non-edible) constitutes 42% of waste for households in detached houses.
- In the past 30 years, the average quantity of domestic waste produced by a detached house has fallen by 3 kg per week (from 11.8 kg in 1979 to 8.7 kg in 2011).
About the investigation
The survey of domestic waste from single-family dwellings included an analysis of domestic waste from approximately 800 households living in one of the following municipalities: Gladsaxe, Helsingør, Kolding and Viborg. This means that both large and small towns in both Jutland and Zealand are represented.
The waste was divided into 19 different waste types, including 6 types of food waste, a number of potentially recyclable types of dry waste, and batteries and small electronic scrap. In addition, the households involved were also interviewed to get to know citizens’ views on the waste disposal system.
Read the report (in Danish): “Surveying domestic waste in single-family dwellings with particular focus on food waste, batteries and small electronic scrap” .
Facts about the Danes
Number of single-family dwellings at national level: 1,541,794 inhabited dwellings, of which 1,150,496 are farmhouses and detached houses, 372,932 are terraced or semi-detached houses and 18,366 are inhabited holiday homes.
Composition of single-family dwellings by household size: 1 person (25%), 2 persons (38%), 3 persons (14%), 4 persons (16%) and more than 4 persons in the household (7%).
Source: Statistics Denmark, StatBank, BOL103, 2011.
Anne-Mette Lysemose Bendsen, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel.: 72 54 43 12, email:
Lone Lykke Nielsen, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel.: 72 54 41 82, email:
Jenny Bøving Arendt, Press Officer at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel.: 72 54 41 07, email: