Milk poured down Britain’s kitchen sinks each year creates a carbon footprint equivalent to that of thousands of cars, research shows.
University scientists say the 360,000 tonnes of milk wasted in the UK each year creates greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 100,000 tonnes of CO2.
This is the same as is emitted by about 20,000 cars annually.
The research identifies ways that consumers could also help curb greenhouse gas emissions - by reducing the amount of food they buy, serve and waste.
They also suggest the food industry could reduce emissions by seeking more efficient ways to use fertilisers.
Researchers also say halving the amount of chicken consumed in the UK and other developed countries to levels eaten in Japan could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.
This would be equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.
If average annual chicken consumption in developed countries fell from 26kg per person to the Japanese average of about 12kg by 2020, global emissions from poultry would fall below current levels.
This is despite increased emissions output from the developing world.
This would cut the predicted global output of nitrous oxide, a key greenhouse gas, from this source by almost 20 per cent, based on current growth rates.
Demand for food, particularly meat, is expected to increase over the next few decades as the world’s population continues to grow and emerging countries consume more.
Agriculture is the biggest source of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that is emitted by soil and fertilisers.
Producing meat creates more emissions than growing crops, as large amounts of cereals are grown to feed livestock.
Researchers arrived at their findings by examining data for global agricultural production of greenhouse gases together with consumption of food in various regions of the world.
The study, carried out in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen and partners in Europe and the US, was published in Nature Climate Change.
Eating less meat and wasting less food can play a big part in helping to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions as the world’s population increases.
Dr Dave Reay
School of GeoSciences
This article was published on May 16, 2012