Food waste is a bigger cause of climate change than plastics, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
Food waste produces methane when it rots in a landfill, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases and many times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Zero Waste Scotland says the carbon footprint of food waste from Scottish households in 2016 was nearly three times the footprint of their plastic waste.
Last month, the Scottish Government launched the ‘Food Gone Bad’ campaign to raise awareness of food waste’s impact on climate change.
Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland chief executive, said: “It might seem bizarre but scraping that leftover lasagne, mince or salad from your plate into the bin is seriously damaging the planet, because when those scraps of pasta and lettuce which you never got around to eating end up in landfill, they rot.
“As they break down, they emit methane, which is many times more harmful in the short-term to our climate than carbon dioxide (CO2).
“Food waste is actually a bigger cause of climate change than plastics. It is still vital that we continue to reduce plastic waste, which remains an extremely serious issue.
“But as more people ditch single-use plastics as awareness grows of the wider impact of plastic waste, including pollution, we will send a strong message on the damage caused by binning leftovers and other wasted food.”
Out of 456,000 tonnes of food waste collected in 2016, only 93,000 tonnes made it into dedicated food waste recycling collections. These are taken to local anaerobic digestion facilities, which use microorganisms to break down waste. The methane given off can be collected and converted into fuel.
A total of 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent was given off by food waste in 2016, compared to 0.73 million tonnes from Scotland’s 224,000 tonnes of plastic waste.
Ben Elliott, who leads the UK Government’s campaign to slash food waste in half by 2030, today said those aged 18 to 34 were the most passionate about the environment yet were also the worst food wasters.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Following the First Minister’s declaration of a global climate emergency, we are reviewing a range of policies across government to ensure we do all we can to support the public sector, businesses, communities and individuals to meet our shared climate responsibilities.
“We would encourage everyone to consider what more we can all do to help reduce food waste.”
Last year, a collaboration between four universities found avoiding waste from food, clothing and electronics could halve the UK’s carbon emissions.