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Salad days soon over: consumers throw away 40% of bagged leaves

Britons throw away 40% of the bagged salad they buy every year, according to the latest data, with 37,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 178m bags – going uneaten every year.

The figures from the government’s waste advisory body Wrap are being published on Wednesday by the supermarket giant Tesco to highlight that prepared salads are still among the UK’s most wasted household foods. Past studies have shown that the average UK family throws away £700 of food each year.

Shoppers do not always buy bagged salads with a specific meal in mind, which can lead to them being forgotten about and then binned, according to separate research carried out by Tesco. Flimsy packaging can lead to delicate leaves spilling out, being damaged and then going soggy.

After a two-year programme finding out why shoppers waste so much, Tesco is aiming to reduce the volume of salad waste with resealable bags. This week it will start selling its own-brand salads in bags with sliding zip locks and made of a thicker film than usual to prolong the fridge life of the leaves.

“We’ve been working with our growers to develop new packaging which allows customers to return to their bags of salad over a number of days with very little hassle,” said Tesco’s produce buyer manager Adam Hill. “We know many shoppers roll up their bagged salads after using them once and stick them at the back of their fridges where they are forgotten.”

The move to launch the resealable salad bags has been welcomed by Wrap. “We commend Tesco for introducing a new resealable packaging format,” said Wrap’s business programmes director Steve Creed. “At present, nearly 40% of lettuce and leafy salads bought by householders end up being thrown away.”

Wasted lettuce is harmful to the environment in other ways; separate research has found that, per calorie, growing lettuces produces more greenhouse gases such as methane than rearing pork.

Sainsbury’s has reviewed the portion sizes across its salad bag range to make it easier for their customers to buy what they want to eat. It has also included waste tips on salad bags to help prevent soggy leaves.