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Scientists at York explore ways of reducing food waste

Posted on 5 January 2017

The University of York is to lead a new research project examining how food manufacturing systems can be improved to reduce waste.

The project, which received £800,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is a joint collaboration between the universities of York, Loughborough and Nottingham.

Food and drink is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, employing approximately 400,000 people with a turnover of £76 billion.

However, a staggering 9.9 million tonnes of food waste and food by-products are generated per year in the food industry alone, of which 56 per cent is considered unavoidable. 

Environmental impact

The two year project will explore how systems can be improved to better utilise unavoidable food supply chain wastes (UFSCW).

Food which is lost after harvest and along the distribution and consumption chain has a negative environmental impact, putting pressure on natural resources and ecosystems and causing pollution through food discards.

However, current strategies for dealing with UFSCW are rudimentary and of low value: these include incineration and where possible; animal feed and bedding; compositing; ploughing back in to soil and sometimes landfill.


Scientists said UFSCW has huge potential as a bio-resource as it contains a number of unexploited, bio-based materials and chemicals, with a range of potential commercial applications.

Dr Avtar Matharu, joint lead Investigator at the University of York, said: “Our research aims to develop a holistic understanding of re-use of unavoidable food supply chain wastes as a source of functional food ingredients.

 “This is very exciting as our research has global ramifications as it addresses grand challenges of food waste, hunger and poverty alleviation, climate change and sustainability”

The results from the project will be assessed at an industry level to determine any possible consequences for the entire UK food manufacturing sector.

Further information:

The reseach is in collaboration with:

Professor James Clark, Department of Chemistry, University of York

Professor Tim Foster, University of Nottingham

Dr David Gray, University of Nottingham

Professor Shahin Rahimifard, Loughborough University


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