Chipping away at food waste from takeaways 

Eating more of the takeaway we buy is a simple and pocket friendly step to reduce our environmental impact. In recent years takeaway deliveries have grown massively, reaching a value of £11.4bn in 2021, double what it was in 2015. Research from Just Eat and the Sustainable Restaurant Association found that in the UK £1.8bn worth of takeaway food is thrown away annually and of this, £1.4bn comes from households. But what we wanted to find out more about what takeaway food is being wasted and why? 

About the Food Waste Race 

In 2021 Hubbub and Just Eat teamed up to explore how takeaway customers could be supported to reduce their food waste from takeaways. This resulted in the Food Waste Race, which took place in two stages – an insight phase followed by a behaviour change trial. Participants representing frequent Just Eat customers were recruited to take part. 

Delivering change 

The insights and learnings have led to three big changes that Just Eat are implementing to help reduce food waste: 

  • Food waste busting inspiration – each customer will see a pop-up banner when ordering on the app that will link to food saving tips and inspiration. These aim to excite customers about the idea of eating their leftovers and give them confidence that they can do it safely.
  • Savvy portion size trial - with 15 restaurants providing customers with the option of a ‘savvy’ chip portion size. If successful Just Eat will roll this out to other restaurants. 72% of the trial’s participants said they had leftover chips after eating their takeaway meals.
  • Clearer portion sizes – support to restaurants to provide clearer guidance on portion sizes so that customers know what they will receive and be able to waste less.

Key takeaways from the takeaways: what we found out 

At Hubbub we’re always hungry to learn, and curiosity plays a big part of all our campaigns. The Food Waste Race insight phase ran for four weeks with 91 participants who filled four weeks of food diaries (502 diary surveys in total, have that Adrian Mole). They told us about their takeaway habits, how much takeaway goes to waste and barriers to reducing food waste. We found out that: 

  • 16% of each takeaway meal is wasted
  • 53% said that large portion sizes were the main cause of food being leftover
  • Chips followed by rice, pizza, meat and curry were the most wasted foods

Successfully changing behaviours and cutting food waste 

Participants told us that they didn’t enjoy eating takeaway leftovers and weren’t always sure that it was safe. So, we shared tips and hacks, TikTok style foodie films and set them challenges that put fun and flavour in the spotlight as we inspired them to see their leftover in a new light with the confidence to eat them safely. 12 weeks after the Food Waste Race, we asked participants which new habits they had kept. They told us: 

  • 92% were wasting less takeaway food.
  • 63% reduction in takeaway food wasted.
  • 82% were wasting less food from groceries.
  • 71% were making better choices for the environment in other areas of their lives, for example walking more and using the car less

“Before getting involved in the Food Waste Race leftover takeaway food was ending up in the bin. We didn’t know how to reheat it. Top offenders were chips, bread and anything that came in big portions.” Ambi Kumar, Birmingham 

“Be mindful and you can create something delicious with your leftovers and what’s in your fridge.” Matt Beavan, London 

Food for thought 

  1. People are looking for positive, expert-led sources of information to support them in reducing their food waste. Just Eat and their restaurant partners can play that role.   
  2. ‘Takeaway time’ is a good opportunity to inspire people to think about reducing food waste and adopting other things they can do that are good for their pockets and the planet.

Want to know more?  

Read the report to find out more, including how Just Eat are responding to this insight and learning.