If you eat these sandwiches, you’re actually damaging the environment


Scientists claim that the number of sandwiches eaten each year in the UK has the same negative impact on the environment as 8 million cars.

Who would have thought that eating your favourite sandwiches would have a negative impact on the environment? Not us, and we’re really torn between our slightly toasted, cheesy, meat-filled favourites, and doing the right thing by the planet.

A study from the University of Manchester has calculated the carbon footprint for a sandwich, taking into account both home-made and pre-packaged goods; how the ingredients were produced; the packaging; as well as the food waste discarded at home and elsewhere in the manufacturing and supply process; and sadly a classic favourite sarnie has been revealed as the worst offender…

Ready-made all-day breakfast sandwiches, filled with eggs, bacon, sausages (basically all the yummiest things) have the highest carbon footprint of the sandwich squad, generating 1,441 grams of CO2 eq.

That equals the same amount of pollution that would be produced by driving a car for 12 miles.

The British Sandwich Association (yes, that is a real thing) figures show that 11.5 billion sandwiches are eaten in the UK each year, which created on average 9.5 million tonnes of CO2 eq, which is the same as the annual use of 8.6 million cars.

The team from the university’s School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences said:

“The estimated impact from ready-made sandwiches ranges from 739g CO2 eq for egg & cress to 1,441g CO2 eq for the bacon, sausage and egg option.” 

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to a sandwich’s carbon footprint, including the agricultural production and processing, which is the largest contributor, plus transportation and refrigerating. Storing sandwiches in fridges in supermarkets accounts for up to a quarter of their greenhouse gas emissions, meaning making the same sandwiches at home with the same ingredients could significantly reduce carbon emissions. 

The team concluded that a combination of changes to packing, recipes and better regulations and processes for waste disposal could reduce the carbon footprint by half

Professor Adisa Azapagic from the university said: 

“We need to change the labelling of food to increase the use-by date as these are usually quite conservative. Commercial sandwiches undergo rigorous shelf-life testing and are normally safe for consumption beyond the use-by date stated on the label. Given that sandwiches are a staple of the British diet as well as their significant market share in the food sector, it is important to understand the contribution from this sector to the emissions of greenhouse gases.”