What a Waste!
Did you see Great British Waste Menu on BBC1 last night?
If you did, then you’re probably shocked/angered/mortified/upset by the amount of perfectly edible food that gets thrown away every day. If you didn’t see the programme, go and watch it on iPlayer. Go!
There are lots of things you can do to help reduce the amount of food that is wasted every day.
First of all, we can all take responsibility for the food we throw away and reduce it in a few easy steps. I don’t want to patronise, but sometimes we all need a reminder of the things we know make sense (including me). Before you go shopping, check what you have in the fridge and cupboards already. Plan your menu for the days ahead and write a list of what you need for that. Buy only what you need. We tend to buy too much food, and then throw it away. It will save us money and waste to take that easy step. Ignore sell-by and use-by dates. They are not to do with whether the food is safe to eat. They’re about stock control and the look of food. Use your sense and decide whether food is OK to eat. Lots of things still taste great even when they’re not looking their best. We often have the tail end of peppers in the fridge which have gone a bit soft (not mouldy!). I wouldn’t eat them raw like this, but once cooked, they taste as good as crisp, fresh peppers. Eggs are usually good long after the use-by date. You can eat eggs up to a month after they’ve been laid if they’re kept in a cool place. If you’re not sure, put an egg in a glass of water. If it floats, it’s gone off, if it sinks it’s fine. If it hovers in the middle, it’s OK, but needs using quick. Do you, like me, always end up cooking too much rice or pasta? Take the extra couple of seconds to measure what you cook, and cut down on the waste.
Supermarkets throw loads of stuff away at the end of each day because it’s not as fresh as it could be. Perfectly edible, but not the standard we, the public, apparently demand. I worked briefly in a supermarket whilst at uni, on the bakery counter. Every night, left over bread rolls were thrown away. Still fresh and tasty, but the rolls were sold as fresh that day, so at the end of the day, left over ones went in the skip. I asked if I could take them to the local homeless shelter, since there was actually nothing wrong with them. Nope. No way. I got a nice telling off for asking, and then I was double checked from then on to ensure I binned the left overs, rather than giving them away to be eaten by those in need. I left soon after.
This sort of thing still goes on. I’d like to ask you to lobby your MP on this. Tell them you want supermarkets to work with food redistribution agencies so that left over, edible food goes to where it can be used each day, instead of being left to rot in a skip. It’s outrageous that people are going hungry when there’s a wealth of good food being dumped every day.
Lots of food never makes it to the supermarkets. Whether this is because the supermarkets are being too picky, or because we, as consumers, are too picky, I’m not sure. Both probably. But really – what is the sense in veg such as courgettes being ploughed into the earth because they don’t measure between 17 and 24 cm? Seriously? I grow courgettes, and I can tell you that they taste great when they don’t fit into this narrow band. Millions of eggs are thrown away every year because they are too small to fit into the regimented “medium/large/extra large” sizing structure. Small eggs have the same nutritional value, but you’ll never see them in the supermarket. Tomatoes and strawberries are thrown away because they’re not quite big enough. Peppers discarded because there’s a light blemish on the skin.
It’s criminal. We have no right to treat food in this way. We need to make a change, and that change will only come from us. From making changes at home to reduce our own waste, to lobbying the supermarkets to be more responsible. I’d love to start finding the suppliers and buying my produce from them, buying the stuff that gets discarded for being the wrong size or shape. If you’ve ever grown your own veg, you’ll know that nature likes variety and food does not grow in “perfect” sizes and shapes, but everything still tastes great. Let’s get that message out there!
You can contact your MP at theyworkforyou.com
Visit the Zero Waste Week website and find out what else you can do to reduce waste, and pledge to take a step towards less waste. Take part in the Zero Waste Week between 6 and 12 September.
And please, add your ideas for reducing food waste in the UK in the comments below. We CAN make a difference here, and we really must!