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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Soggy lettuce tops waste hit-list
Bulldozer on landfill site   BBC
Profligate waste may be hitting you hard in the credit card
The humble lettuce has emerged as the UK's number one waste item, with 61% of households throwing a soggy one away each week.

Britons waste up to 80bn a year on food that goes off, clothes that are never worn and club memberships that go unused, a survey has indicated.

Young single males are the worst offenders said the Prudential survey.

At the other end of the scale older females squander the least, following the maxim "waste not, want not".

Guilt-free spending

Overall, the survey of 2,000 adults said men wasted on average 240 more each year than women.

The most common reaction to waste, by both sexes, was to say it did not bother them.

Nearly a third of respondents were untroubled by waste, with just 16% admitting to a pang of guilt.

The survey identified five types of "status waster":

  • Reckless hedonist - This type of waster simply wants to enjoy life and does not care about waste
  • Guilty consumers - These are secret wasters, often hiding their purchases from their partners
  • Self-rewarders - These people tend to splurge in the shops as a means of alleviating stress
  • Out-of-controllers - These wasters have little control over where their money is going
  • Young, free, and feckless - These 16 to 34-year-old wasters have little or no financial responsibility and are intent on having as much fun as possible

The total amount wasted by UK households would easily cover government spending on transport, defence, industry, farming, housing and the environment, the survey said.

"80bn is a staggering amount to waste. On an individual level an extra 1,725 a year would significantly improve our personal finances... it would easily cover the average credit card debt of 1,140," Angus Maciver, director of research at Prudential UK, said.

Your comments

I find this a depressing story as I don't classify myself as a 'waster'. I buy 'classic' clothes that are never really in fashion but never really out of fashion either and wear them until they are worn out or donate them to charity shops. I plan what I need to buy at the supermarket and try to resist 'impulse' buys that may or may not get used. I guess it's up to people how they spend their money, but two questions spring to mind: firstly, are the wasters of today the impoverished pensioners of tomorrow, having squandered their disposable income on a good time when they were younger and expect someone else to bail them out in their old age? And secondly, what is the impact on the environment of wasted food, thrown away clothes etc? One day there simply won't be the resources to support this relentless consumerism, but I don't suppose the 'live now' brigade cares what sort of a world their children will have to live in.
Helen, Berkshire, UK

I am pretty frugal by nature. I buy things that last and being practically minded I keep equipment purchases maintained and working. However all this comes to nothing when I have to spend hundreds of pounds each month on council tax only to see it evaporate in their bureaucratic and overmanned projects. I am forced to be a waster!
Peter WIllis, Bristol, UK

Avoid wasting food is one the most difficult things to avoid, especially if you are single person (and even couples). Many products are sold in "family" size packs that no single person could possibly consume before the use by date.
Darren Sharp, London

We are living in a throw away society which is constantly encouraging us to upgrade our mobiles, appliances etc. I have to admit to being a gadget person wanting the 'latest' technology has to offer. However, I believe in recycling and will use EBay to trade new for old. Other items are also recycled either through charity shops or if worthless, form part of the recycled rubbish. Even the soggy lettuce finds its place as part of the compost heap.
Steve Doran, Whitstable, Kent

I just can't get through a whole lettuce before it goes off!
Phil, UK

There is a terrible culture of waste, over consumption and built-in obsolescence in modern life, but the dreadful lack of easily available facilities for recycling in the UK also plays a part. If we could take a few example from the German model perhaps we could start to bring down this supposed figure of 80bn.
David Solomons, London

By far and away the biggest waste in my personal finances is what I spend on taxes. The war in Iraq really puts the waste of a few lettuces into perspective.
Adam, London, UK

I do tend not to waste money, but I do find that at times I waste food. The problem is that I like to choose what to eat as I go along, but since I work all day, have no car and am not close to a food shop, I have to buy in one go at the weekend - inevitably I will buy some stuff that I will not eat. Yes, I do feel very guilty to throw away food when others are hard up or starving. My best money saving tip also helps you lose weight - think twice before buying snacks/drinks when out - the cost really mounts up when you add it all together. If you really do need to eat then go prepared if possible (take water with you/a sandwich or just a couple of biscuits).
LBW, Reading, UK

I can't say I'm in the lettuce category- pah rabbit food, but must admit to feeling seriously guilty about throwing things out. I even prepare food a day or two before its BB date- in the hope to get another day or two out of it. It's so tempting when shopping to just add another packet of something or the other to the trolley though, regardless of what is on the shelves at home. A bargain is not a bargain though- if it gets binned.
Shane McCarrick, Dublin, Ireland

Residents may face rubbish charge
08 Jan 04 |  Oxfordshire
Residents beat recycling target
27 May 04 |  Oxfordshire
Staff tackle 'waste congestion'
22 May 04 |  Cumbria
Consumer debt continues to soar
22 Apr 04 |  Business
Could tips become swap shops?
10 Feb 04 |  Magazine

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