Supermarket lamb curry ready-made meals eaten in the UK amount to an annual carbon footprint equivalent to 5,500 car trips around the world, or 140 million car miles.
The figures were calculated using a carbon-footprinting tool known as CCaLC, developed by researchers at Manchester University in collaboration with over 20 industrial and other organisations.
The estimates – calculated to illustrate the tool – are based on the figure of 30 per cent of adults in the UK who eat ready-made meals at least once a week. Curry is one of the nation’s favourites, accounting for up to 10 per cent of ready-made sales.
The academics in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science found that the fast-food meal generates the equivalent of 4.3kg of carbon-dioxide emissions per person.
The meal’s ingredients are responsible for 65 per cent of the carbon footprint, with lamb contributing half of the total. Meal manufacture contributes on average 14 per cent and packaging four per cent of the total carbon footprint.
The contribution of transport is small, at two per cent. However, storage at the retailer contributes 16 per cent.
The research was carried out as part of the Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities (CCaLC) project at the University of Manchester.
The £1m project is led by Adisa Azapagic, professor of Sustainable Chemical Engineering at Manchester University, and funded by organisations including the Engineering and Physical Research Council, and the Natural Environment Research Council.
Previous work by the same research group showed that the Christmas turkey meal prepared at home is a greener offering, coming in at only 2.5kg carbon-dioxide emissions per person.
One of the reasons for this, they say, is that preparing food at home can, in some cases, reduce the carbon footprint.
’The same lamb curry prepared at home has a 20 per cent lower carbon footprint, mainly because of the elimination of the refrigeration stage at the retailer that is needed for the ready-made meals,’ said Prof Azapagic.
In addition to food products, the CCaLC carbon footprinting tool can be used for estimation of carbon footprints of other products, including packaging, biofuels and various chemicals.
A chemical-sector version of the tool for estimating the carbon footprints of PVC products is available for free at http://www.ccalc.org.uk/.
The PVC CCaLC tool will be launched today in London at The Royal Society of Chemistry, where the team will demonstrate it on a number of case studies to show its uses and benefits.