Small changes, big impact: London’s on a mission to get people to eat their bread crusts

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Londoners toss the equivalent of 12,692,626 loaves of bread per year by discarding their bread crusts. Pic: ©GettyImages/TBird59
Londoners toss the equivalent of 12,692,626 loaves of bread per year by discarding their bread crusts. Pic: ©GettyImages/TBird59

Related tags bread crust London Food waste Save a Crust

Residents in the UK’s capital city bin 254 million bread crusts each year. That's the equivalent of just under 13 million loaves of bread worth over £13m ($16m).

To raise awareness of the mounting food waste problem, the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has commissioned charity Keep Britain Tidy to launch the Save a Crust campaign, which includes a series of workshops being held in the city during February and March with professional chefs demonstrating nifty ways to turn unwanted crusts into treats.

According to the NLWA, 43% of British households throw away the crusts, 15% do not eat the ends of sliced loaves and one in 10 reject the ends of fresh loaves.

How far will consumers go to eliminate food waste?

Annually, about 10m tons of food is wasted in the UK, valued at around £20bn $25bn) worth of food or more than £300 ($388) per citizen, however one in 10 under the age of 35 thinks the problem to be so huge, they do not believe anything they do will make a difference.

NLWA’s research found that, when it comes to food waste in general, more than two thirds of respondents said they do make an effort by buying less food and using leftovers, but many said it is hard to eliminate waste completely.

One in five are aware they should not waste food but still admitted to buying or throwing away too much.

A further one in six said throwing away food is ‘okay’, as long as it is thrown into a food waste caddy.

Only one in three said they never throw away any food.

Its research also found it is the younger generation who seem to be fussier, with 15% of 16-24s cutting the crusts off sandwiches and only 4% of over 55s doing so.

Youngsters are also more likely to cut the crusts off toast than the older generation.

Crust’s role in cancer prevention

Obviously, these fussy eaters do not realize the bread crust is more nutritious than the bread itself.

This site reported on a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that found the crust contains pronyl-lysine, an antioxidant that increases the activity of enzymes in the body linked to cancer prevention.

Binning without thinking

While the NLWA does not regarding it ‘wrong’ to discard the crusts, it states the crux of the matter lies in shifting the culture of just binning without thinking.

“Discarding your crusts may seem a small thing to do, but each crust adds to the huge food waste mountain which is damaging the environment and is very costly to manage,”​ said Councillor Clyde Loakes, chair of NLWA.

“What particularly surprised me with our research is that one in 10 under 35s say the problem of food waste is so huge they don’t believe anything they do will make a difference.

“We want to show that small changes can have a big impact and that’s one reason we’ve launched our Save a Crust campaign. Making brand new dishes and treats from a product you simply would have thrown away otherwise is a brilliant way for households to reduce their food waste and save some money – whilst brushing up on their baking skills.”

Cinnamon Crunch

For a snack that is similar to a donut, toss toasted crusts in melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (recipe from Chef Borrell).

The free workshops are taking place across all north London boroughs and are hosted by professional chefs from the Skills Training Network, who will demonstrate ways in which consumers can reduce food waste by using the ingredients in healthy, affordable dishes.

Chef Mark Borrell said: “We are passionate about helping people to waste less food. Making a tasty bread and butter pudding, stuffing or Tiramisu using crusts you’d otherwise have binned is really rewarding and I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they realise what how easy it is.”

For more information on the workshops, click here.

Results from NLWA survey – conducted by Censuswide in June 2018 – of a nationally representative sample of 2,085 adults living in London.

What do people do with uneaten crusts?

  • 15% of the respondents said they use them in cooking or baking
  • 32% feed them to animals or birds (increasing in the older age groups)
  • 12% compost them at home
  • One in five put crusts in their food waste caddy
  • One in five simply throw them in the general rubbish bin.

Additional data

  • 2.81 mean loaves of bread used in one household each week x 2 end slices per loaf x 52 weeks = 292.24 end slices thrown away by a single family per annum
  • 292.24 end slices thrown away/mean 20 slices in a loaf = equivalent to 14.612 loaves of bread in a year (round figure of 15 loaves)
  • 292.24 end slices thrown away per household x (15.30% + 9.9% = 25.2%) proportion of people who say they don’t eat the end slices of sliced and fresh loaves x 3,447,000 London households (Office of National Statistics) = 253,852,523 end slices thrown away in total London in one year
  • 253,852,522.56 end slices thrown away/mean 20 slices in a loaf = equivalent to 12,692,626 loaves of bread per year.

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