Food Waste Action Week – Eat It, Don’t Bin It!

This week is the UK’s first Food Waste Action Week, which is being run by WRAP’s brilliant Love Food Hate Waste  campaign and being promoted by Nadiya Hussain off the telly. The aim is to stop any edible food ending up in the bin.

To quote Martin Gover, CEO of WRAP ‘Climate change is happening now and is the greatest threat to our planet, and our future generations. We must act, fast. Wasting food has a huge contribution to global emissions but is often overlooked or ignored.

‘We are so used to wasting food that we’ve forgotten its value, and the cost that feeding our growing global population has on the natural world. Food Waste Action Week is about empowering everyone to act because like it or not, we in our homes are the most significant part of the problem. So, it’s down to us all to be part of the solution too, and this is one environmental issue that we can all tackle, and with minimum effort.’

At EcoBabble we are all about inspiring eco-actions, so we’ve put together our top tips for reducing food waste in your home. But first, here are some staggering stats from a recent UN report to explain why food waste is such a huge issue that we all need to do something about.

Global Figures:

  • Globally we waste nearly one billion tonnes of food every year.
  • Food waste in homes averages 74kg per person a year.
  • Food production is responsible for 30% of green gas emissions, more than all commercial aviation.
  • If food waste were a country, it would have the third highest emissions after the US and China.
  • 17% of all food in restaurants and shops is dumped.
  • Globally a THIRD of all food produced is never eaten, as some food waste occurs on farms and in supply chains, as well as in homes, restaurants and shops, which causes almost 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

UK Figures:

  • The total amount of food wasted in the UK is 9.5 million tonnes per year.
  • 70% of UK food waste is wasted by households (not supermarkets or restaurants).
  • In the UK the amount of food wasted in homes equates to 6.6 million tonnes per year at a value of £14 billion.
  • Of that 6.6 million tonnes of food waste, 4.5 million tonnes is edible waste that could have been eaten, which is the equivalent of 8 meals per household each week being thrown away.
  • Edible food waste from UK homes is responsible for 14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, the same as flying from London to Perth over 4.5 million times.
  • The effect on greenhouse gas emissions if every household in the UK stopped wasting food for a single day would be the equivalent of planting 640,000 trees per day.
  • If the UK stopped wasting 280 tonnes of poultry EVERY DAY, the effect on climate change would be the same as planting almost 6.6 million trees a year.
  • 3.1 million glasses of milk are thrown away EVERY DAY in the UK. If this milk was used, the effect on climate change would be the same as planting almost 6 million trees a year.
  • EVERY DAY 4.4 million potatoes are wasted in UK households. If this waste was stopped, it would have the same effect as planting 5.4 million trees a year.
  • If UK homes stopped throwing away 20 million slices of bread EVERY DAY, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be the same as planting 5.3 million trees a year.

What can you do?

Reducing your food waste is one of the easiest ways of reducing your environmental impact. Yes, in some areas local authorities collect food waste and some people compost their uneaten food. However, if the food is still edible, it is a waste (both of natural resources and your hard-earned cash) to put it in a food waste bin or compost bin.

Nobody purposely buys food with the intention of throwing it away, but often food is wasted due to a lack of planning, either when shopping or in the kitchen. Here are our top tips for easy wins when it comes to minimising your household’s food waste:

  • Check the temperature of your fridge – to keep food fresh for longer, it should be less than 5°C, so turn it down if necessary.
  • Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before going shopping to see what you already have.
  • Make a shopping list of the items you are likely to eat and stick to it.
  • Meal plan for the week ahead (if you are organised enough). Meal planning is a great way to save time and money, and it’s nice to not have to think about what to cook at the end of a busy day.
  • Don’t be tempted by special offers and discounts when food shopping, unless you plan to use the food or have the capacity to freeze it.
  • When cooking, use what you have available rather than going to the shop to buy what you fancy.
  • Get creative with using things you might otherwise throw away, such as making banana bread from over-ripe bananas. Nadiya Hussain even has recipes for cooking with banana skins! Other ideas include cooking broccoli stalks rather than binning them – I actually think they are the best bit! And things like mushroom stalks, celery leaves and parsley stalks can be saved in a tub in the freezer to be used to make stock or soup. You can find lots of good recipe ideas for using up leftover food here.
  • Consider having a “use me first” shelf or box in your fridge for perishable items that need to be eaten soon.
  • Look at date labels and understand what they mean. You can use your common-sense and ignore a “best before” date if the food looks, smells and tastes OK. However, “use by” dates are more important and are there for food safety reasons, so if a food is approaching its “use by” date, either eat it or freeze it before it goes out of date.
  • Make the most of your freezer to store anything that’s going to go off – for lots of great tips, see our post Your Freezer is Your Friend.
  • Try to cook the right amount of food to avoid large portions that will go to waste. As a guide, a third of a cup is a decent amount of uncooked rice for an adult and a single portion of uncooked spaghetti is about the width a 1p or £1 coin.
  • If you do have leftovers, make sure to eat them the next day or freeze them for another time.
  • If you have enough freezer space, consider batch cooking to use up things – soups, curries and stews are all good ways to use up surplus food.
  • Use a food sharing app such as Olio if you have food which is approaching its use by date and you know you won’t eat it.
  • If you have too much tinned food or packets of rice or pasta which are within date, consider donating them to a local food bank.

Of course, some food waste is inedible, such as bones and rinds. The key thing here is to minimise the amount of inedible food going to landfill, where it will contribute to climate change by emitting methane and carbon dioxide. Personally, we put all our inedible scraps of food in our Green Johannas, which are hot compost bins designed to take all kinds of raw and cooked food waste without attracting rats! The design speeds up the composting process so we can get useable compost for our gardens in only a few months. You may be able to get a discount on a Green Johanna or similar hot bin from your council. Or perhaps you can find a nearby friend or neighbour who will let you put your inedible food scraps in their compost bin.

When you waste food, you are also wasting the natural resources that have gone into growing, producing and transporting the food, as well as your own financial resources. According to WRAP, the average UK household could save £700 per year by only buying food that they ate. There are loads of easy ways we can take individual action to reduce our food waste, reduce our carbon footprint and save money! If you’ve got any favourite recipes for using up leftovers or any useful tips on how to reduce food waste, please share them with us in the comments below or on our social media.

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