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Waste Wednesday: food waste

  • In Bristol, the average family wastes £60 worth of food every month. Across the UK, this scales up to seven million tonnes of food and drink wasted annually. If this figure was reduced to zero, the environmental benefit would be the equivalent of removing one in four cars off the road. Reducing food waste is also one of the easiest ways to feed our growing population – annually, this waste could feed one billion malnourished people.  

    This all sounds good, but what actions can you as an individual take? Luckily, reducing food waste is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your environmental impact. It only takes a few easy swaps – try to implement some of the following tips:

    1. Get organised before you shop – make a list! It sounds simple, but by pre-planning you are less likely to impulse buy. Also, don’t shop when you are hungry - you are more likely to overbuy!
    2. Follow the first in first out principle – move all the newly bought items to the back of the fridge, freezer or pantry to keep the existing food easily accessible. This will reduce the amount of food that gets discarded simply because it was left to go bad.
    3. Learn how to store your food – did you know that apples, avocados, bananas and tomatoes emit ethylene gas which causes other products to go bad quicker? Keep these away from everything else.
    4. Consider expiry dates – most foods, if properly stored, preserve for days past their expiry date. Eggs last 3 to 5 weeks longer – test their freshness by putting the egg into a glass of water. It should rest at the bottom of the glass.
    5. Share! Living in a small household? Split your loaf of bread with friends, family or neighbours. Made something you don’t like? Instead of throwing it away consider who else you know who may love the dish! 

    But combatting food waste at home is not enough – shockingly, 40% of global food waste comes from restaurants. Although much work needs to be done by restaurants themselves to solve these issues, individuals too can make a difference by following a few simple rules:

    1. Not too hungry? Share with a friend. Restaurant portions can be huge – its not surprising that 1/3 of all food wasted by restaurants comes from customer’s plates. 
    2. If you aren’t keen on sharing, ask to take leftovers home with you – just remember to bring a re-usable container! 
    3. Don’t like tomatoes, avocados or peas? Don’t be afraid to ask for your meal to be made without them. 
    4. Support local restaurants which are making a difference – the Bristol Eating Better Award is given to food businesses that sell healthier food options and promote sustainability. Also, The Sustainable Restaurant Association rates restaurants on their progress in 3 areas – sourcing, society and the environment. 

    A certain amount of food waste is unavoidable – take banana skins, chicken bones or teabags. Bristol City Council offer food recycling bins which can be ordered free of charge from their website. Not in Bristol? Check your local council’s website to learn more about the options that they offer. Or why not try your hand in composting or creating a wormery!