Food Waste Action Week – Denis the Dustcart Blog


In his regular feature, Denis the Dustcart talks about Food Waste Action Week. Food waste is a big problem. Many of you who read this blog will know it – some extensively, others less so.

You can follow Denis on his Facebook site to keep up with information on recycling issues.

You may even know that this week is Food Waste Action Week.

If so, read on to broaden your understanding — or at least increase your enthusiasm for reducing food waste.

If you don’t know, well, at Food Waste Action Week, organizations and people across the country gather behind the Love Food Hate Waste campaign to raise awareness of food waste and encourage simple behaviors that can make a big difference .

But you won’t be alone if you don’t know. In fact, only 39% of people in the UK understand how food waste is driving climate breakdown.

No doubt more than 39% of the population has heard that food waste damages our environment, but we need to understand how something causes harm before we know what we can do about it.

When, after having a good understanding of food waste issues, we reach the stage where we want to incorporate food waste reduction strategies into our daily routine, we suddenly realize that help is everywhere. Love Food Hate Waste is a great place to start: the site is packed with recipes, hints, tips and advice on everything from use by dates to freezing.

It’s a great resource – a vital resource given the urgency of the situation.

Food waste “caused between 8 and 10% of emissions of the gases responsible for global warming over the period 2010-2016,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

However, in The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, the UN reports that nearly 9% of the world’s population is starving.

Many of the people most affected by food insecurity live in poorer countries where most of the world’s food is grown.

In addition, these are people in countries that cause significantly less damage to the climate than we do in the industrialized north and are still at the forefront of climate collapse.

Hardly seems fair, does it?

Of course, the collapse of the climate means that people will be able to grow less food in the future. The earth will not be able to support the yields that we are currently demanding. Prices will go up; poverty will increase; nutrition will fall; more people will starve.

In making the link between food waste and the health of our planet, many people will blame the “throw away” policies of supermarkets and grocers as the primary blame. Most will be surprised to learn that 70% of food wasted in the UK actually occurs at home.

Of the 9.5 million tonnes of food that is wasted in the UK each year, 6.6 million tonnes is food that we have brought into our homes.

Most of this comes from supermarkets, of course, so there’s a clear link between household food waste and supermarket-driven consumerism – but we can’t apologize for our personal share of it.

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that too many of us are doing just that. According to the Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP), the number of people who strongly agreed that “everyone has a responsibility to minimize the food they waste” fell by 9% in 2018-19.

Of the 6.6 million tons of food households throw away every year, 4.5 million tons were avoidable.

WRAP’s 2019 Food Waste Trends Survey estimates that 18.4% of our milk is not drunk.

Looking at the impact of milk production on our climate (a study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) found that the world’s thirteen largest dairies combined produce almost the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions in one year as the UK economy as a whole), the fact that almost 1/5th of milk is wasted in the UK is alarming.

Over a fifth of the chicken (20.5%) remains uneaten. Almost a quarter of potatoes (22.8%) are thrown away.

This is something we can and should deal with.

Separate collection of food waste is certainly part of the solution (which is why Exeter City Council is introducing the service), but it alone is not enough.

There is no license to waste food.

If I buy a packet of tomatoes and end up not eating a few, throwing them in my trash can only helps to prevent the damage they do as waste. It will not negate the impact of their production – growing, harvesting, transporting, packaging. Tomatoes bought in winter have been grown in heated greenhouses, so the energy consumption for their production is skyrocketing.

Although Exeter City Council has started collecting food waste across the city, our message will always be the same: that it is better not to waste food at all.

It’s not about eating more than we want; It’s about only buying what we know we’re going to eat. That means knowing what we already have in the fridge, how best to store food, and how to cook it so we eat as much of it as possible.

Planning meals, using up leftovers, freezing what we can when we need to, and getting a little creative in the kitchen are all things we can do to help make real, positive change.

We can also save ourselves a package: throwing away groceries is a bigger burden on our wallets than ever before.

I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – by the pace we’re meant to live and all the disaster-focused information about the damage we’re doing to our world – so it’s certainly good to know that we can make small adjustments to help us and our planet in a meaningful way.

By reducing our food waste, we all make a positive contribution to the world – and to everyone’s future.

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