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Earth First

How To Reduce Bread Waste

For many people, bread - in whatever form - is a staple in their diet. Bread comes in all shapes and sizes, from toast, sourdough and wholewheat to different types of flatbread. Yet, bread is one of the most wasted food products.

In Germany, roughly 1.7 million tonnes of baked goods are thrown away each year, amounting to 19% of the whole production. 1 In the UK, roughly 20 million slices of bread are wasted each year, which is 44% of all the bread produced in the UK. In the Belgian region of Flanders alone, 69 million kg of bread are wasted. 2,3

What can we do to avoid throwing away our favourite loaves and reduce bread waste? 

3 Ways To Store Bread Properly 

Bread can go stale easily if left out on the counter. There are a few different ways to make your bread last longer, and oftentimes, it depends on the type of bread.

Tip 1. Don’t leave your bread in the fridge. The most important thing to make your bread last is not to store it in the fridge! It does nothing to keep the moisture in the bread and might even accelerate the process of staling. 4

Tip 2. Store in a bread box. A proper bread box has an environment that has just enough humidity and airflow for the bread to stay fresh for up to 3 days. 5,7

Tip 3. Freeze your bread. You can also simply freeze the bread you can’t finish. Cut up your fresh bread into slices and freeze it. Then you can pop the slices into a toaster or thaw the bread slice by slice, and you don’t need to worry that you won’t finish the bread before it goes stale.  

How To Use Leftover Bread

Even if we try our best to store our bread properly, sometimes we still end up with a few slices left over or that last piece of stale bread. Instead of throwing it away, try making your leftover bread into:

  • Croutons: If you have some thicker slices of bread left, dice them up, sprinkle them with some olive oil and spices of your choosing and then bake them until they are crisp. 
  • French toast is a breakfast favourite of many, and it turns out much better when you use bread that has gone a little stale. 
  • Breadcrumbs: Grind down the leftover bread and bake it until it’s lightly toasted. Breadcrumbs can be used to add some extra crunch to your casseroles or use it as a topping on soups or pasta dishes. You can also use them to create a crunchy crust for chicken wings or vegan cauliflower wings. 
  • Beer: If you brew beer at home, take a tip from artisanal breweries that have started to use bread to make their beers. Bread is used to substitute parts of the malted barley, a grain used in the beer-making process.5

Innovations That Minimise Bread Waste

There are other alternative ways that bread waste can be used - some are not necessarily doable at home. 

Industry Innovations

Today, bread that would normally go to waste is also used as animal feed. 6  Some farmers give bread waste to their cows or pigs. Bread waste has also been experimentally used to create ethanol through fermentation, which could be used to produce biofuel.8 At the moment, this experiment is just in the research phase, but who knows - maybe we’ll see a future where cars will be powered by bread. 

The Tangzhong Method

Most innovations make use of stale bread that would go to waste. But there are also methods that extend the shelf-life of bread. For example, tangzhong describes an East Asian technique that helps your bread retain more moisture and, in turn, gives it a prolonged shelf-life.9 To use this method, you would take part of the flour you need to bake your bread and mix it with water over heat. Once this portion of flour reaches a gluey dough texture, it’s mixed in with the rest of the dough (prepared normally).

Upcycling Bread Waste Into Chips

There are also a few startups dedicated to reducing bread waste. For example, the Swiss startup, Zürichips, uses leftover bread in Zürich to make chips. Take a minute to watch how they do it here!


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