Apparently in the UK alone, households throw away over 8 million tonnes of edible food every year and the food processing industry disposes of nearly 12 million tonnes that is rejected before it even reaches the shops. This is estimated to be 20-40% of all fruit and vegetables which don’t meet the strict quality requirements of our supermarkets.
On the journey from field to fork our food clocks up a considerable amount of energy and water. The energy and resources required to grow, harvest, package and distribute our food is immense; if these products are not even consumed then the waste is doubled.
By throwing away good food we are not only wasting resources but actually adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Waste sent to landfill emits methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as powerful as CO2, so by reducing the amount of food we throw away, we’re saving on resources, landfill and emissions.
According to my local authority, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC), we generate around 100,000 tonnes of compostable rubbish every year. That is more than 10,000 full refuse vehicles. Even so, almost half of the average Gloucestershire household refuse bins contain waste that could be composted, so we really must use those food caddies; or better still, consider purchasing a composting bin to produce your own garden compost from appropriate waste. GCC is targeting 60% of all food waste to be recycled by 2020 and ultimately at least 70%. This is actually achievable today if we all just make a few minor changes. The benefits are immediately there for us all.
DEFRA says that we have the power to divert ALL food waste away from landfill. Even inevitable kitchen waste like teabags and egg shells can be recycled into valuable compost to grow more food. If we stop sending food to landfill, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. As an added bonus, there are financial savings to be made. Food waste is the heaviest waste stream, accounting for 60% of waste weight. So removing a large part of this will lighten both the waste and financial load on our council tax.
It’s also worth mentioning that at the most expensive time of the year, we are most likely to over-shop and throw away even more food. The expert advice is to plan your meals carefully and create a shopping list based only on what you need. Cruising the aisles aimlessly or habitually buying things you think you might need, leads to unnecessary purchases and inevitable waste. There’s also evidence to show that food shopping online means it’s less likely you will be seduced by impulse purchases and those tricky ‘special offers’. Delivery charges are easily paid by the savings you will make by only buying what you really need. So here’s the challenge: apart from necessary waste, like peelings etc, see how little food waste your household can generate in the coming week by consciously thinking about everything you buy, cook and throw away.