Recently, there has been a lot of attention in the media about how much food is wasted both in the U.K and worldwide. The U.K has signed up to a global sustainable target of halving food waste by 2030. Taking steps to reduce our food waste will not only save people money, but will help the environment by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for driving climate change.
Each year, UK households throw away 4.5 million tonnes of food that could be eaten. That is enough to fill the equivalent of 8 Wembley Stadiums or 3,600 Olympic sized swimming pools!!
Some of the most common wasted products are milk, bread, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and poultry.
The top 3 wasted food items are:
Bread (more on this later)
Good news about food waste
Perhaps one of the few good things to come out of the first lockdown was that the U.K managed to reduce its waste by 20% compared to 2019 levels. This encouraging finding is likely to be because people spent more time planning and cooking meals in their home. Another great piece of news reported by the charity Hubbub is that over half of U.K consumers now value food more highly than pre-coronavirus levels.
Let’s not waste our progress!
Fortunately, cutting the amount of food waste is one of the easiest actions we as individuals can take to reduce our environmental impact.
1. Use your senses
Research has shown that U.K households throw away food that could have been eaten. Part of the problem is that shoppers misinterpret food labels. For instance, ‘best before’ labels are often misleading with food being able to be consumed weeks, sometimes months after the date.
A recent campaign Look, Smell, Taste, Don’t Waste launched by the food waste app Too Good To Go is encouraging people to judge for themselves whether food is still edible. Now is the time to get up close and personal with your groceries. Remember, don’t be hasty, it could still be tasty!
2. Store and please don’t ignore!
A key way to prevent food waste at home is to ensure it’s stored correctly. For instance, freezing food is a great way to preserve it. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign has produced this useful guide on the best ways to store different foods.
Some great food storage tips include:
- Wrapping lettuce in kitchen towel and placing it in an airtight bag in the fridge, to keep it fresher for longer.
- Herbs, these heroes of the kitchen, can be frozen. First wash and dry them whole and just pop them into a freezer bag. Alternatively, you can keep them fresh by placing them in a half filled cold water container and pop in the fridge. Just remember to replace the water every few days!
No one wins when food goes in the bin!
3. Food wrapped in plastic is definitely not fantastic!
Give some thought to how your food is packaged, as over packaging of food is a big problem.
Food waste and plastic packaging waste are closely connected and contribute to plastic pollution, a huge problem in the U.K and elsewhere. A recent survey reported that over 90% of Brits are concerned about the damaging consequences of single use packaging.
Prepared foods and multipacks of fruits are some of the biggest culprits.
‘In the UK, 37,000 tonnes (178 million bags) of prepared salad are thrown away each year, equivalent to every person in Liverpool throwing away a bag of salad every day for a whole year’
Salad bags are not able to be recycled in the UK, as they are composed of several different plastics.
Small format packaging such as individual condiment sachets, also have a negative impact. They have little recycling potential and are prone to leaking into the environment.
As not all plastic used for food packaging can be recycled (depends on the type of plastic) it would be better for the planet if we try to avoid it. The majority of us agree that this is an issue:
A report by Zero Waste Europe found that 79% of Brits thought food was overpackaged.
While consumers don’t have direct control in how food is packaged, we can choose to shop more sustainably.
- Stay loose! A great way to help the planet and your purse is to buy loose fruit and veg.
- Purchase products that have zero tolerance on plastic packaging.
Avni from Virtuelicious is one of our KINDpreneurs, and she really understands the double issue of plastic pollution and food waste. Avni provides meal kits made out of plastic free, compostable materials. They also come in just the right size allowing you to test the recipe and prevent food waste.
4. Some food for thought…
Apart from changing how we treat food once it’s in our homes, we can also help support businesses and entrepreneurs that have made food waste their mission! By choosing to buy products with an environmental conscience we can make change together!
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit…
Did you know that fresh produce deemed to be deformed or misshapen by industry standards doesn’t make it to our shelves and is left to rot. Just like people, produce comes in all different shapes, colours and sizes. Wonky, a company who believes all produce is created equal, collects unwanted fruit and veg from farmers and producers to use in their products. Support Wonky on their zero waste mission!
A company that is definitely using their loaf..
Every day in the UK, 20 million slices of bread are thrown away – mostly because they are not used in time. Aside from the bread we chuck away at home, bread is also wasted on the supply side.
Toast Ale is a social impact company that brews their beers with surplus fresh bread from the sandwich industry, using the heel end of loaves that would usually be discarded. They also donate 100% of their profits to charities fixing the food system.
Try out their award winning Craft Lager, Pale Ale or their Rise Up collaboration series championing change for people and the planet, over a beer. For this series, Toast Ale have teamed up with other B Corps, some of who are also helping to end food waste such as Oddbox, Flawsome and Rubies in the Rubble.
5. Give a little or take a little…
Attention to all the supermarket adventurers out there! Most of us are guilty of trying out something new that catches our eye on the aisle. But what to do if it turns out not to be your cup of tea?
Olio, a food sharing app can help solve this issue. The app connects people in the same neighbourhood who want to either give or take unwanted or leftover food. All you have to do is upload a picture and description of the item and where/when to pick it up, then choose the lucky recipient. For more info, see Olio’s website.
6. Track your own food waste
You may have heard of Giki App to track your carbon footprint, but did you know many of the steps involve reducing food waste? Find out what your carbon footprint is then find steps to reduce it. Choose from over 120 steps that suit your lifestyle and budget. Use Giki Zero to build your personal path to Zero carbon emissions.