Food waste is a huge concern for the UK – as much as a fifth of food purchased by British households each year is thrown away uneaten, according to Wrap, totalling some seven million tonnes.
While vegetable peelings and the like cannot reasonably be included in meals, estimates say 13 billion ‘5 a day’ portions of edible fruit and veg – over 4.2 million tonnes – are wasted.
Obviously this is a big issue for the environment – both the landfill space used by edible waste in household wheelie bins, and the carbon footprint of farming the produce in the first place – not to mention the ethical impact of wasting food that could have been eaten by others.
Business food waste
For businesses, minimising food waste can play a useful part in corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability policies, with positive PR opportunities, while maximising profit margins at the same time.
Food waste in the home
But how can we all do our part to cut down on our food waste, at home and at work? Wrap has a simple three-step approach:
- Buy what you need. Retailers are increasingly being encouraged to offer a range of different pack sizes, and while buying in bulk is often a little cheaper, it’s not worth paying the extra for a bigger pack if you’re going to waste the rest.
- Store food correctly. That doesn’t just mean keeping your fridge at the right temperature (although that will help) but also thinking about how much of a product you will eat, and when – and potentially dividing it into individual portions and freezing any spare.
- Make the most of it. Use food at its best, and make sure you use up what’s left before it goes off – but also recognise that ‘best before’ doesn’t mean you have to throw it away on that date, as it may still be edible for some time afterwards as well.
There are other measures you can take in your own home too, such as careful portion control – only cooking as much as you’re realistically going to eat, so that you don’t have cooked leftovers to throw away.
If you do have leftovers, try to incorporate them into tomorrow’s meals – even if it’s just by making a batch of bubble and squeak with your leftover vegetables. Ask older relatives for inspiration, as this is one of those skills our parents and grandparents had in abundance, but which was largely forgotten around the end of the 20th century.
Advantages of cutting food waste
There are other advantages to reducing food waste too – it means your bins will take longer to fill, and should smell a little more pleasant as there will be less organic matter inside.
With fortnightly collection schedules and an ever-increasing array of different types of recycling to deal with, it’s a good way to ease the burden on yourself, while keeping your plastics recycling bin emptier for longer thanks to the corresponding reduction in packaging waste that you’re likely to achieve through your efforts.