Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don't let food waste be next year's shock headline - my two penneth

Well Happy New Year everyone.  I can see it's kicked off in fine style!

Having just got used to my back-to-school routine and having my first day at the laptop, this morning I found my Twitter stream awash with the topic of food waste and the media's shock that statistics published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers reveal that 30%-50% of the world's food never gets eaten.

These are huge figures to contemplate, whichever way you look at it, with growers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers all playing a key part or being affected.

But this isn't the first time that the headlines have been full to the brim with the horror of food waste.  Here's a random sample, taking us back to 2007, when I first became aware of the issue.

2012 - Unilever calls on companies to tackle food waste mountain

2011 - UK families are wasting less food but are told to do more

2010 - UK Restaurants waste 600,000 tons of food a year

2009 - Elimination of food waste could lift 1billion out of hunger, say campaigners

2008 - Brown urges Britons to cut food waste

2007 - Call to use leftovers and food waste

Despite making inroads into the waste mountain, I am very much concerned that each spell of outrage even when followed by best intentions, dwindles back towards stunted action, as we move on - for whatever reason - to other competing issues in our lives and organisations.

However, with austerity biting at politics, retailers as well as the householder, 2013 could very well be the year that we look back on as being a watershed period in all our efforts to tackle this huge issue.  There is certainly enough expertise around us to help, with WRAP offering a bank of resources for the hospitality and retail sectors as well as its Love Food Hate Waste website for consumers.  And saving money is a bloody good carrot to wave in front of our noses.

But even so, it can be very easy to slip into old routines when hit by everyday pressures, and that, especially for the householder, is one of the greatest problems in tackling food waste.

If that sounds like you, there are simple steps to help you grab the problem by the balls, and which will help to ensure that you're not contributing to next year's food waste horror story.

1. Make yourself accountable.   Tell your family, friends, Facebook pals, Tweeters or blog readers that you are determined to tackle food waste.  If you think it'll help to keep you motivated, get them to sponsor you for a good cause.

2. Set a deadline to help give you a focus.   For example, trying to reduce it over the next couple of months.  It takes a while for new habits to form, so commit to going the distance rather than the novelty of a short sprint.

3. Start a food waste diary, to identify what type of food goes to waste and why.  This will help uncover regular waste habits.  And remember, throwing that mouldy fruit into the compost bin is still a waste, even if you think you're going to get some 'free' compost out of it.

4. Use a separate bin to monitor your food waste.   Then rejoice when you see it reduce.

5. Stop buying things that you regularly throw away.  If you reduce the problem at source, you'll have pounds in your pocket and less food in the landfill heap.  Check out my ornamental melons story as a very good example.  If you have regular leftovers when buying takeaways, just buy less next time.

6. Freeze it!  Food labels now advise that you can freeze certain products up until the use-by date.

7. Visiting is a must!  You'll get top advice on portions, recipes for leftovers and food storage.

Of course, if you've got fire in your belly and want to do more to either understand or tackle the wider issues of food waste, there are various avenues available, including

  • Join food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart and his Feeding the 5000 campaign to help bring an end to food waste in the retail and supply chain.
  • Follow Kerry McCarthy MP and her work commitment to drive change through parliament.  See last year's blogpost about her Food Waste Bill.  And of course, you can always lobby your local MP to get behind the issue.
  • Contribute to the WI Great Food Debate, the NFWI's series of debates about Food Security, which reaches at the very heart of the organisation.

And last but not least, if you live in Wiltshire, Shropshire or Suffolk and want to get involved in slimming your waste-line either on your own or as part of a community project, keep your eyes peeled for some fantastic Rubbish Diet initiatives coming up.

For instance Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is kicking off the new year with a county-wide Rubbish Diet, which will mentor householders through slimming their bins over a period of 8 weeks. If we get through to the next round of the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge competition, Rubbish Diet Shropshire will be hot on their heels in the springtime, with a choir, school and football club all joining in with the bin slimming antics.  And in Suffolk, my own neck of the woods, there'll be a lot of fun and games involving local well-known personalities who will be leading the way too.   Tackling waste will be a key topic for each of these projects.

Even if you're not a resident of any of these counties, hopefully you'll be inspired to take action from a distance and come together in National Zero Waste Week, which will be held in September, where there'll be another chance to work together to focus on reducing the amount of food waste, and other superfluous stuff that ends up in our bins.

Hopefully, this should all make for a great 2013, especially if we can pull together to ensure there are no shock food waste headlines this time next year.

And on that note... I'm off to have another word with my 8 year old, who's busy listening to BBC Newsround about this very topic.  Time to remind him about his bad habit of abandoning bread crusts!


Chris at Thinly Spread said...

Ha, I wrote a ranty post about this today too and popped to your place earlier to see if you had! Top tips, thank Kerry McCarthy on Twitter?

Almost Mrs Average said...

Thanks Chris - I'm going to share your blogpost in a mo! It's a great read. I've had rather an interrupted day organising some exciting waste related plans coming up so was a bit tardy in responding. Yes Kerry is on Twitter - @KerryMP, will link you up straight away.

Chris at Thinly Spread said...

Ignore that last bit, I've found her!

Chris at Thinly Spread said...

Ha, we're commenting at the same time!

Almost Mrs Average said...

haha, so we were. :)

Eco Thrifty Living said...

Great points to get people wasting less food! I'm really passionate about wasting as little food as possible - it makes sense in so many ways!

Waste Clearance London said...

I will be reducing my waste further more! We will try to reduce plastic and make a compost! Then after that grow some organic vegetables. This blog inspires our family to reduce waste,save and be healthy.


Almost Mrs Average said...

Thanks Eco Thrifty Living - You're right and it does take some re-thinking, but I love how as soon as you treat it as priority it becomes easier. :)

Thanks Waste Clearance London. That's great to hear. Good luck with all that you do. Every step helps us go a long long way. :)

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