Food waste to rise during Brexit panic buying

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Panic buying on the rise due to the uncertainty of Brexit.

We’ll forgive you if had forgotten that the Brexit deadline is looming, but panic buying at the thought of gridlock at the Channel Ports can only lead to one thing: MASSIVE food waste.

But as the UK prepares to leave the EU, one British waste specialist company is warning that the uncertainty created by a lack of clear trade deals is leading to exactly that.

“Up to half of us are planning to stockpile”, says waste collection company BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall, “and we know anything about the shopping behaviours in the UK this year, Brexit going to cause a second wave of panic buying this year.”

“And as we all saw from the first wave of panic buying, stockpiling only leads to a huge unnecessary rise in food waste.”

To buy, or not to buy?

Fears of that second wave of panic buying are increasing as the Brexit deadline looms, especially now with extra Covid-19 restrictions being put in place around the Christmas period.

Hall: “Overbuying always happens around Christmas with people overestimating how much food they need, but with the reality of Brexit around the corner and new tier systems in place, there’s a real risk that tonnes of food will end up in the bin.”

In March, BusinessWaste.co.uk reported that over a million pounds worth of food was wasted due to the panic buying caused by the UK national lockdown at the start of the year.

To understand the buying behaviours of the UK public this time, BusinessWaste.co.uk have conducted an online survey with 1,100 participants ahead of Brexit, with the following results:

• Are you planning on stockpiling foods and goods for Brexit? 603/1100 Yes
• Have you already started stockpiling? 238/1100 Yes

“It’s clear that over half of people are planning on making sure they have plenty just in case, and it seems that around 1 in 5 people are already stockpiling ahead of Brexit,” says Hall.

“Half of people are worried that the items they want won’t be available, and the other half are worried that after Brexit the things they usually buy will go up in price, so are stockpiling now to save money in the future.”

What are the most common items being stockpiled?

BusinessWaste.co.uk asked the 1,100 participants of their survey which items they would prioritise during stockpiling, and much like the first lockdown, it mostly consisted of dried and tinned goods such as pasta, rice, and baked beans.

“If I had to guess what will run out first it’ll be the toilet paper like last time,” says supermarket employee Marcus, “because nothing spells impending doom more than having nothing to wipe your bum on.”

Other common items are UHT milk, baby milk formula, and perhaps the most British requirement in a time of crisis – teabags.

Beer and wine are also high on the list for many panic buyers, unsurprisingly as most pubs have been closed this year and as most alcoholic beverages are imported into the UK.

“What shocked me was the more perishable items people have suggested stockpiling, such as fruit and vegetables that they are worried they cannot get from EU countries post-Brexit,” says Mark Hall.

“I can’t even begin to imagine how much waste this will create, especially in a year where foodbank usage has been at a record high.”

What are officials saying?

The simple advice is not to stockpile.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) have said that shops have plenty of supplies and have prepared for all eventualities on January 1st.

Should a no-deal Brexit be on the cards for the UK, supermarkets have made sure to fill up their warehouses to be able to supply as much as possible for as long as possible, with the only real concern being about providing fresh goods.

Hall: Shoppers are being told not to buy more than they usually would, so that the supermarkets can continue to be fully stocked in the weeks to come.”
If stockpiling becomes as much of a problem as it did in March, we can expect shops to begin restricting how much we can buy of certain items again in order to keep a steady supply on the shelves and reduce potential waste.

“Overall, I think people need to be mindful of others when they shop,” says Hall.

“We need to leave enough for other people – you don’t want to be reason why another family is struggling to get the supplies they need to get by this winter.”

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