St Andrews students combat climate emergency by cutting food waste

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Students at the University of St Andrews have ditched trays to cut food waste and combat climate emergency.

Research by Zero Waste Scotland found students are the worst offenders of any age group in respect of wasting food at meal times, throwing away on average £273 worth of food a year.

The study found that a key cause of food waste is people literally having too much on their plate and that removing food trays and reducing plate sizes makes it easier for people to avoid taking, or being served, more food than they either want or can eat.

In Scotland households collectively throw out nearly 600,000 tonnes of food each year, valued at over £1 billion. Zero Waste Scotland claim that preventing food waste could save the average Scottish household £437 per year. In terms of carbon emissions, it would have the same impact as taking one in four cars off the road.

Publication of the Zero Waste Scotland research findings coincided with a decision by St Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, to remove food trays from its hall cafeterias as part of ongoing work to tackle waste and carbon emissions.

Cat Acheson, Zero Waste Scotland study author, said: “Our results show that avoidable food waste is a big problem among the student population, with 18 to 25-year-old students in particular wasting significantly more food than other demographics.

“The St Andrews study highlights the fact that students often end up with an over-abundance of food, whether from taking too much in catered halls of residence or buying too much in supermarkets.

“There are many complex factors behind this, including lack of food management skills, and perceptions of food value.”

St Andrews environment officer Alexander Clark said: “We have removed trays from our University halls to make it easier for people to reduce the amount of food they waste because they have more than they want or need.

“Students and staff can easily go back for seconds if they find they want another serving.

“Taking trays away is a simple approach to the serious problem of food waste and the damaging carbon emissions it creates.

“While other universities have already done this successfully we believe we are the first university in Scotland to do so. Removing our trays has already started to reduce food waste here and we expect it to make a significant difference. This move has been really well received by staff and students, who want to help combat the climate emergency.

“We were already planning to do this as part of our wider, ongoing environmental work. The Zero Waste Scotland study helped make the case for this clear.”



Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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