Food waste is a huge problem not only here in the UK but across the globe. It is estimated that 1/3 of the food we buy ends up going to waste which equates to 10 million tonnes a year! Not only is this shocking because of the number of people who are living in food poverty but it is a huge issue for our planet too. This food all has to go somewhere and, if not incinerated, that somewhere will be landfill where it will very slowly rot. You may think this is the best place for it as many companies consistently try to persuade us that products can biodegrade in landfill but unfortunately, landfill will never be able to provide the right conditions for this and instead, everything that ends up there will still be there in decades to come. The waste we send is usually inside a plastic bin bag. Items inside will be up against more plastic, materials and metals. The mix of this as well as the lack of oxygen leads to your food waste emitting dangerous gases such as methane which enter the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.
- Food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually
- If food loss were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US
- The water used to produce the food wasted could be used by 9 billion people at around 200 litres per person per day
- Breaking it down by food group, losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops and fruit and vegetables, 20% for oilseed and meat and dairy and 35% for fish
- If 25% of the food currently being lost or wasted globally were saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million people around the world
- In the US, organic waste is the largest source of methane emissions
You can find out more on this here.
We often think of meat, flying or driving cars as being the biggest areas we should be tackling but in actual fact, we could be doing so much for our planet just by reducing our food waste. Here are 6 ways that could help…
Meal planning will not only help you to spend less but it will organise your week’s meals and also help you to prevent food waste. If you take a little bit of time each week to plan what meals you’d like to cook, what ingredients you’ll need as well as taking the quantities for each family member into account you will be able to shop, cook and create meals with ease and hopefully end up with no or little waste.
Purchase Reduced Items
One of the biggest reasons we end up with so much food waste is due to what is left in the supermarkets. Best before dates and use by dates have a huge effect on how we shop and you will often see shoppers reaching to the back of a shelf for products that will most likely have a longer shelf life. Supermarkets are also bound by these dates and cannot sell food past these even if it is still perfectly fine. Other foods that get left behind include crooked veg, bruised fruit, damaged cans, ripped packaging and so on. But if we all decided to choose to shop these items, if we looked at the reduced sections we could make a huge dent in helping to reduce this unnecessary food waste that goes on every single day.
Get Storage Savvy
If you know you won’t get immediate use out of some of the food you have purchased you could opt to freeze it for future use. Freezing is the ultimate way of storing any food that can be used later on because it literally presses pause on the best before dates. Prior to freezing always check that the food is definitely in good enough condition. If it isn’t already in suitable packaging for freezing, change it over into something that will protect it whilst frozen and remember that once thawed, it should be used up within 24 hours.
If you have a food product that you open and continue to open to be used, you will want to seal and protect this in order to prolong its life. Cheese is a perfect example of a type of food that can easily turn if exposed to the air but that can be kept perfectly fresh if stored well. Stasher bags are a great way of storing fresh produce such as cheese, salad leaves, peppers and so on. They are airtight, hygienic and can be washed clean and reused.
Put Your Leftovers to Good Use
Before throwing any leftovers into the bin, take a moment to research if they can be saved and used in other ways. For example, you may be able to create soups, stews or sauces with your vegetables. You can bake a variety of bread, cakes or crumbles with leftover fruit. Bread past its best can be used in a bread and butter pudding or you can also create breadcrumbs for fish or use it for french toast, eggy bread or mini pizzas.
Grow Your Scraps
Yes, I did say grow your scraps. Did you know that you can grow more veg and fruit from the scraps that you may ordinarily throw away? It is a really great way of getting more for nothing and preventing food waste. Here are a few examples:
Celery – Simply cut off the bottom of the celery and place it in a shallow container with a little warm water in the bottom. The bowl should be kept in a sunny and relatively warm place.
Onions – You can regrow spring onions from your onion bulb. Make sure the root part has about half an inch of grown attached. Place it directly in soil and cover it with a layer of soil. Water it regularly to keep the soil moist and keep cutting the green sprouts off when they’ve regrown.
Lettuce – Instead of throwing out the leftover stalk or leaves simply place them in a bowl with just a bit of water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in a place that gets good sunlight and mist the leaves with water a couple of times each week. After 3 or 4 days, you will notice roots beginning to appear along with new leaves.
Potato – Cut the potato in half and plant with the whitish shoots (often referred to as eyes) facing up. It should begin to sprout within a couple of weeks.
If you have the outdoor space or if your local council offer a composting service along with your bin collections then this can be hugely beneficial for reducing food waste from going into landfill. Vegetable scraps, vegetable peelings, fruit peelings, fruit cores, tea leaves and granules plus eggshells can all be put into a normal garden compost bin instead of into your household waste.
Here it will naturally degrade as the conditions are perfect for this process and in turn, you will be reducing your carbon emissions and you will be creating a very useful end result – and no, you don’t have to be a gardening expert to make this work, as long as you follow some simple steps, I promise anyone can do this. For more on composting, I have this blog post here.
Once you get used to incorporating some of these tips into your weekly routine you will find reducing your food waste will get easier and easier.
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