Fighting Food Waste: Are You Doing Your Bit?
From every corner of the food industry, right down to the home kitchen, a terrific amount of food goes to waste in the UK. It’s estimated that around 8.4 million people in this country are struggling to afford to eat on a daily basis and while some food that goes to waste is unfit for human consumption, there is a huge swathe of it that is.
Food waste is the world's third biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions. 1.9 million tonnes of food go to waste in the UK each year and a third of all food produced globally is wasted, but what can we do to help shrink this disgraceful problem?
Of course handling fresh food and drink is always tricky due to shelf life. Meeting consumer demand is a fickle business, but with the data available to big supermarkets, the potential to significantly reduce UK food waste is certainly doable. We have all heard the stories of the big food stores throwing out day old sandwiches and an abundance of pre-prepared salads only for them to be ‘lifted’ from the skips. Today, many food businesses make a point of donating short-dated leftover stock to local food banks and homeless shelters.
There are also fantastic app's available that help people share more to reduce food waste, like Olio Ex.
However, sometimes the problem with food waste comes earlier on in the supply chain. Wonky produce is much more common these days, but there’s still a lot of misshaped and imperfect produce that goes by the wayside at wholesale food markets.
Conscious brands like Rubies In The Rubble have embraced this though and produce chutneys and preserves from the fruit and veg which would otherwise be taken to composting sites. Supporting brands like this directly helps keep food from going to waste, effectively creating more demand for food that would traditionally be passed up. Oddbox are an Abel & Cole-esque food delivery service who take all the passed up wonky veg and imperfect fruit, and deliver them to your door.
Outside of the food industry, there are ways in which we can further prevent food waste:
Preparing meals more effectively
This is a great way to ensure you get the most from your food while making life a little bit easier at the same time. Preparing a large batch of lasagne, cottage pie or chilli won’t take much extra time than it would for a one-off meal. Portion out in reusable food containers and pop them in the freezer. As well as arming you with speedy mid-week meals that can be easily reheated, you end up preserving your food for up to six months.
Portion control is another thing we should all pay more attention to. While many parents may find themselves a ‘feeder’, loading up the plates of loved ones to ensure they get enough, this is a prime reason for food ending up in the bin. Smaller portions, followed by repeat spoonfuls if needed is a more sensible approach.
Additionally, leftovers are serious assets that far too many of us are not taking advantage of 😀 While some will throw them directly into the food waste bin, the most common occurrence is leftovers being temporarily stored in the fridge for a few days, before taking the walk of shame to the bin. Guilty as charged?!
Making the most of leftovers is an economic advantage to home cooking and is also easier on the environment. Don’t be afraid to add other things into your leftovers, or pop them into a lunchbox to be taken along to work the next day. There are lots of insulated flasks and containers available for you to take warm food with you too.
Associated food waste
It’s worth mentioning associated food waste byproducts here too, like packaging. Right now, packaging technology has not advanced enough to deliver both convenience AND sustainability credentials. Until that happens, many of our best loved ready-to-eat products come with a plastic footprint, often in the form of unrecyclable mixed materials. It’s important to be mindful of this and look at ways to incorporate more fresh foods and sustainable snacking in your lunches and picnics. Whether it’s a canister of nuts or a portion of a homemade cake, there are ways to avoid plastic wrapped food and still enjoy the convenience factor.
Wider work to tackle food waste is also in progress with big organisations like Love Food Hate Waste and WRAP leading the charge. With the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) allocated £15 million in funding food redistribution companies, it looks like the tide is already turning on our gross food waste problem here in the UK.
If we continue to mount the pressure, as well as doing our bit at home and on the go, the potential to shrink this country’s food waste is inspiring.