Heather highlights the true extent of the food waste occurring in the UK today and how we can each do our bit to reduce our own food waste at home (and also save money at the same time)!
The food waste problems
Food waste affects every level of production, from farm waste to rubbish at home. On average, we produce one third more food than we consume, yet there are still billions of people going hungry. On top of this, there are also the greenhouse gas emissions to think of. Agriculture is the second largest producer of greenhouse emissions globally, and 70% of global water usage goes to growing food. There is much research in the science, sustainability, and agricultural community about how to reduce supply chain waste within the food industry. Designing processes to turn food waste into profitable products is gathering momentum. We are now using fruit peel to make pectin (a food product essential for jam, jellies and confectionary among other products) and creating pea protein powder from pea vine waste. There is even a national programme to link small businesses with potential waste suppliers.
These are all great ways to reduce food waste earlier on in the food supply chain but there is much we can do ourselves to reduce waste at the consumer end. Food waste is a global problem: there is an excess of 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste produced every year, whilst one billion people suffer from severe chronic malnutrition. The UN have a list of sustainability goals and Zero Hunger is the second one. If we can minimise our own waste of food, there will be more food to go around. What’s more, our individual efforts will promote further change in how food is produced.
Impacts you can have
Unlike many other areas of sustainability awareness, where socio-economic factors can play a large role in participation, everyone can minimise their food waste. The majority of food waste comes from food in the home going bad- meaning the individual can have a large effect. As well as ‘saving the planet’, being smart with food can save you money and make sure you are getting the most out of your shopping.
Steps you can take
You do not have to go through the trash to save the food that would be wasted to be able to make an impact. There are some simple steps you can take that can make a difference.
1) Choose the ugly products
Your food does not have to look good on the outside to taste great; slightly brown bananas are sweeter and make great smoothies! Why not pick the pepper that cannot decide if it’s red or yellow, or the carrot with two legs? Otherwise, these ‘ugly’ vegetables might end up going in the bin when it is a perfectly tasty food.
So much produce is already thrown away before it makes it to the supermarkets, now with wonky veggie schemes advertised by their imperfections; it’s a way to save money and the planet.
2) Learn to store your food properly
Storing your food so it will not go bad as easily is great to getting a long shelf life out of your food. For example, bananas will cause your other fruit to ripen, and make sure you cover food before it goes in the fridge, whether with reusable food wrap or a tub with a lid. You can also stop cut up fruit from browning by brushing it with lemon juice. There are lots of hacks like these, so do your research if you can to make your food last longer!
3) Get creative when cooking
Cooking can also help to preserve food. Being creative with what you can put together from what is in your kitchen can be a great way to make sure all the food you already have is getting used up. Sometimes the best meals are those made with the leftovers from the week!
4) Buy food which will not go off before you get a chance to eat it
If you have problems with food going off before you have a chance to eat it, maybe consider buying food that is frozen, canned or dried. Also try to buy the appropriate amount of food you can eat it before it goes off. Whilst that 10kg bag of potatoes may work out much cheaper per spud, can you really eat all those potatoes before they go bad?
5) Best before dates are a guideline
Please do not start eating 3 months out of date salmon you found in the back of the fridge! But also, you do not need to throw out your soya milk that’s 1 day out of date. Especially with less processed food, best before date are just a guide of when the product is at it is “best”. Try to learn for signs if your food is going bad rather than just trusting the date it says on the box.
6) Find out when your local supermarket reduces their food
If you really want to save money this is the step that will help the most. You can find online, ask at the service desk or figure out for yourself when they reduce the food that is going out of date. It can be exciting to find something in the reduced section which you would not normally get for yourself. And if you know you are definitely going to eat it, you are saving it from just being thrown away!
7) Apps like “Too Good to Go” or “OLIO”
Depending on where you live, there are apps like Too Good to Go that let restaurants sell off their food that would go to waste for a significant discount. You will have to collect it yourself, but you could get food that can last you for several days. This can help reduce commercial restaurant food waste and give you the joy of not having to cook for yourself at a reduced cost that will give you the warm feeling of doing something good for the planet. OLIO is the same as above but mostly between homes, and you don’t have to pay anything!
By following these tips, coming up with you own, and just simply being aware of the waste you are producing, we can all do our bit to help the planet and be more sustainable. These tips can fit with any kind of diet you have!
This article is inspired by a Levi Hildebrand’s video: “why food waste is actually inspiring!” 10/06/2019 found on YouTube.
About the author: Heather Langley is a research and development chemist at sustainability company in London, Chrysalix Technologies. She loves museums, saving the planet and playing ultimate frisbee. Find her on instagram: @hclangstgram.