Every single year, the UK throws away approximately 14 million tonnes of food waste. Compare this with the 7 million people who are struggling to afford enough food to eat, and this makes for very stark reading.
An unbelievable 13% of all edible food and drinks purchased by the public are wasted
UK households throw away approximately £13 billion of edible food each year; around £500 per household. This means that the UK produces an estimated 14 million tonnes of food waste each year: almost twice the amount of Sweden and Spain.
What are the reasons for food waste?
Nearly a quarter of people surveyed confessed they often forget what’s in their fridge, causing them to throw away out of date and spoiled foods. Over a third of people don’t plan their meals and impulse buy in shops, with only 26% writing a shopping list.
The difference between ‘best before’, ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ leads to confusion amongst consumers, meaning people err on the side of caution and throw away food and drink that’s still perfectly edible.
What’s the environmental impact of food waste?
You may be shocked to learn that food waste (10%) has four times the amount of carbon emissions as flying (2.5%).
It’s estimated that 30% of all available land on Earth is used for food which is eventually wasted.
Animals bred as livestock need to be raised, fed and transported. Plants need to be planted, watered, harvested, and shipped to retailers. Every single piece of food from the beginning to the end of its life cycle, creates a carbon footprint.
How can I reduce food waste?
1. Make a plan
Plan your meals and make shopping lists. It’s also worth making a note of any foods that are thrown away as you may start to see patterns and will be able to adjust your shopping accordingly.
Don’t throw away that sorry looking carrot or wilting kale, throw them in a soup, stock or broth. You can try stir frying a selection of vegetables as a side dish and some leafy greens can even be brought back to life with a quick dunk in cold water.
3. ‘Sell by’ dates are not deadlines
This one relies on your senses, but if it looks the right colour and smells ok then it’s probably ok.
Use by dates should take a little consideration as they’re often used on meat and fish, however best before dates are designed to tell you when the food is at its most fresh but they’re not hard and fast rules.
4. Make use of your freezer
Most things can be frozen and it’s a fantastic way to extend the life of your food. Use it to store leftovers, food close to its use by date, fruit can be frozen and used in smoothies, milk in ice cube trays for your coffee and wine for sauces. Try to label everything so you know what it is and the date it was frozen. Your freezer is an excellent way to combat food waste and get creative in the kitchen.
This is much more important than you may realise.
Any food that is wasted should not just be put in the bin with your rubbish to go to landfill as this creates greenhouse gas emissions as the food breaks down.
Composting at home, is great for your garden. Take a look at @compostable.kate who has great links showing you how to make your own bins and different composting methods.
Alternatively, you can compost through your local food waste recycling programme. Both options allow organic waste to be broken down aerobically and is a much greener option than sending food to landfill.
6. Try food preservation
Pretty much everything from cabbage to eggs can be pickled, not only does it make tasty food, but the pickling process will help preserve the food for weeks to come.
Fruits like apples and raspberries can be made into sauces and compotes to mix with yoghurt. You can add leftover herbs to oil, creating delicious, flavoured oils for dressings and marinades.
Whilst it takes a little effort, there’s something rather satisfying about rescuing something destined for the bin and giving it a new lease of life.
With foods forgotten in the fridge being one of the main reasons for food waste, make sure to keep your fridge neat and try to work on a ‘first in, first out’ policy.
8. Ditch the weekly shop
Not only is it a large and arduous chore, the concept of a ‘big shop’ is one of the biggest culprits of food waste. Fruits and vegetables rarely manage to stay fresh for the whole week and meal plans can change at the last minute, meaning dinners go to waste.
The best solution is to shop little and often and only buy what you need (so try not to shop when you’re hungry!).
According to the World Resources Institute, reducing food waste by half would benefit the environment significantly by reducing the need for land, water, and other resources to grow food. The World Resources Institute state that cutting food waste in half would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigaton of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050.
Reducing personal food waste at home will mean buying less and saves you money.
Planning meals and cooking from scratch as often as possible means you’ll be eating more simply and healthier.
With just a small shift in your cooking and shopping behaviours you can easily make positive changes for yourself and the planet.