Reducing our food waste
When we were younger, we were often told to finish the food on their plates as there are starving children in the world who would be pleased to eat it. Our focus has changed in more recent times to the effect of food waste on climate change.
Globally about one third of edible food produced across the world is never eaten, enough to feed 2 billion people, just over one quarter of the world’s population!
We often assume that the supermarkets and policymakers are to blame for setting their standards too high and throwing perfectly edible food away, but the reality is that in Western Countries more than half of wasted food is caused by us, people!
Most of wasted food is discarded in people’s homes when we scrape food off our plates into the bin or throw out unopened packets. On average each UK citizen wastes over 200g food per day most common being vegetables, salads, drinks, and bread.
When we put food in the bin it ends up at the landfill site. Landfills smell of rotting food as waste is piled up and not much air can reach buried food waste. Rotting food without enough oxygen makes methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and this typically causes over one kilo of emissions per person per day!
Supermarkets are starting to react to this food waste problem by scrapping some of their ‘Best Before’ dates on products. This decision is to try to prevent consumers from discarding perfectly edible food simply because it is not at the peak of its freshness. We can instead use our own judgement on whether we think the food is still fine to consume. This is not to be confused with ‘Use By’ dates which are put there for safety reasons and to lower the risk of food poisoning.
So, what can I do?
People often think they do not produce food waste, but it tends to happen when we are tired and looking for something to eat. We can’t blame it all on a different generation either, as surveys have found that all ages waste a significant amount of food, although millennials wasted 50% more than people of retirement age.
Try to spot yourself wasting food over the coming days.
Here are some practical tips:
- Where possible try to plan your main meals
- Avoid serving too much food on each plate
- Make a habit of storing leftovers and reheating them as a bonus snack the next day.
- Store food correctly so it lasts longer (Love food hate waste website)
- Check whether old food is still safe to eat (is it a Best before or a Use by date) or simply of a lower quality which can be eaten in a different way (e.g., toasting old bread or grilling the tomatoes).
- Plan your food before going shopping, so you only buy food you expect to use.
- Measure out the amount of products like rice or pasta before cooking so you don’t make too much.
- If you buy extra of a product on special offer, remember to buy less of something else to compensate.
There are some excellent links to help give you advice on individual fresh foods and how to minimise their waste, for example:
This is an excellent resource and explains about storage, can you freeze it, how to keep it fresher for longer and how to effectively use up leftovers. There are some helpful apps which can help reduce local food waste, here are some popular ones:
2. Too Good To Go.
On the Too Good To Go app, restaurants, cafes and bakeries list leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away. Users can then browse the map for food near them and pick up a ‘magic bag’ for a fraction of the original retail cost. Registration to the app is free and users can specify their dietary requirements.
Olio provides a platform for neighbours to share unwanted food and other items, all for free. People are free to share or pick up anything from an unwanted gift, produce that’s on its date from a local store, leftover event catering supplies or excess food that won’t get eaten before a holiday. Olio also partners with catering, hospitality, and retail businesses to pick up surplus food 24/7 and send it out into the local community.
The Karma app enables users to rescue fresh food from restaurants, bakeries, cafes and even wholesalers that would have otherwise been thrown away. It is similar to Too Good To Go, especially as food is offered at a handsome discounted price. The difference is that rather than getting a surprise selection, users can see exactly which meals are available to buy at each eateries.
5. NoWaste App
For those of us who want to prevent food waste in our own homes, an app like NoWaste may be just what we need. NoWaste users can scan receipts and barcodes, log each weekly shop, make lists of what’s in, plan meals more effectively and receive automatic expiration reminders.