Food Waste Matters

Every year the average UK household throws away 70kg of edible food. This equates to throwing £250 straight into the rubbish bin. Apart from it being a waste of money, there is the sobering thought that if we reduce our food waste, we could feed the world's hungry without further despoiling of our planet or environment. Also, food production requires a huge amount of energy so roughly 1/3 of our greenhouse gas emission comes from food production.

What can we do to stop so much food waste?

1. Best before dates are not the same as use by dates. 'Best before' simply means that the quality is reduced after that date and there is no immediate health risk. Foods like fruit and vegetables can be eaten well after best before dates and before they rot. In the past, potatoes, apples etc lasted all winter. Also best before dates on eggs are for if they are unrefridgerated. Given most of us stick our eggs in the fridge, you can get longer out of them.

2. Buy only what you need for the week and note the 'shelf life' of products. Staples like bread can stay fresh for days if stored properly or even frozen. Sliced frozed bread is easy to toast and you can thaw out the bread you need to make sandwiches.

3. Put pressure on supermarkets and food retailers not to throw food away. Many cafes will dump the sandwiches not sold that day. These sandwiches are still fresh and edible. Instead they could give unused food to charity. Unsold bread are often returned to bakers before the sell-by date. These could then be sent onto charities feeding the homeless, the roofless and other disadvantaged members of society. Unused bread can be made into breadcrumbs or sent to farmers to feed animals.

Funnily enough, society does seem to adapt to economic changes. As our food wastage has increased, new cultural behaviours have emerged. In the UK, there are growing numbers of Freegans (people who retrieve discarded food from retail shops),Guerrilla Gardeners (trend of urban people planting vegetable patches or flowers on unused public land) and Foragers (people who source free wild foods and use them). Foragers have become really trendy from using seaweed to picking blackberries or apples at the sides of roads. Every little bit helps.