Food waste is a much bigger problem than most people realise. Wasted food creates around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions - nearly 4 times more than all the world's airlines put together.
According to the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), food waste is the main cause of the loss of forests, grasslands and other critical wildlife habitats.
But what is food waste and what can we do about it in our own lives? Read on to find out how to reduce food waste and some solutions to your kitchen waste problems.
What Is Food Waste?
Food waste is defined as food that is either discarded by retailers, due to its colour or appearance, gone past its best before or sell-by date, or plate waste from consumers.
The average UK family wastes around £730 a year, buying food that goes straight into the bin. This could be the half-eaten meal from your plate, food scraps from meal preparation, food that has 'gone off' in the fridge or food that has not been used in time and is no longer edible.
Throwing away food that could be eaten doesn't just waste money. Discarded food is often sent to landfill, where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as it breaks down, contributing to climate change. According to data from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), if the food was removed from UK landfills, it would be like taking one-fifth of all the cars off the road.
It wastes a massive amount of water too. The World Resources Institute reports that 24% of all water used in agriculture is lost through food waste - about 170 trillion litres.
It's easy to be overwhelmed reading the facts, but each household can make a difference by making a few changes to how they shop and eat.
Our 10 Top Tips For Reducing Food Waste In Your Home
There are different areas you can concentrate on, taking one step at a time, to reduce your food waste:
Look in your cupboards before you shop - It's a great idea to do a full inventory of what you have in your cupboards and fridge or freezer before you shop. Think of meals where you'll utilise what you already have and use up any food that might be approaching sell-by dates. This is also a great way to save money.
Plan ahead what you are going to buy- Planning ahead before you go shopping means you'll buy and spend less. You can think about the meals you make and how you might use any leftovers. This way, you won't overbuy and take home food you don't need that may end up in the bin.
Keep track of what you have bought - This will help you not to overbuy too. Write a list of what is in your cupboards and fridge and stick it on the outside or take a 'shelfie' - a photo of what's in there, so you always know what you have. Storing your food carefully helps too. Put older products to the front of your cupboard or fridge and newer ones at the back.
Check use-by dates of fresh food - Always be aware of the use and sell-by dates on the food you buy. Make sure you will be able to use the product before it expires. Also, it helps to understand what these dates mean. Food is often still safe to eat after a 'best before' date; it’s the 'use by' date that tells you when it's no longer safe to consume.
Pick ugly fruit and veg - They will taste just the same and are the products most likely to get thrown away. If you notice an apple has a bruise, for instance, you can simply cut off that part and eat the rest. No need for slightly battered or ugly fruit and veg to go in the bin. It's great to eat the skin of fruit and veggies rather than peel them too. The skin is often packed with extra nutrients and fibre.
Check your serving sizes - Packing too much onto a plate when you are hungry, only to throw it away, can be an issue. Practising portion control saves food, calories and has a major impact on the environment.
Compost if you can - Composting leftovers is a great way to turn food waste into plant food. Although not everyone has space for an outdoor composting system, there is a wide range of composting options, including countertop bins. An outdoor compost bin can create fertiliser for your garden, whilst a countertop version makes food for your houseplants or herb pots.
Love your freezer - If the food you've bought is approaching its sell-by date or you have bought too much, try doing some batch cooking and freeze it to be eaten another day. This is another money saver too.
Discover food waste apps - Whether you are located in the UK or not, you can help rescue food that would otherwise be destined for landfill with apps that help you connect with local restaurants or neighbours who have food otherwise going to be thrown away. Some of the best in the UK are Olio, Too Good To Go and FoodCloud.
Go gleaning - Gleaning networks are set up to combat the waste created by food grown by farmers that supermarkets won't buy because it is the wrong size, colour or shape. A third of food grown is wasted because of this. The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers to harvest the unsold crops and pass them onto charities such as FareShare and FoodCycle, who then redistribute to people who need them. Gleaning stops food waste right at the farm and helps people get food who wouldn't otherwise.
By keeping on top of what food you buy and use, putting simple systems in place - like planning ahead and keeping track of what's in your cupboards and fridge - you will soon be an expert in reducing food waste.
There are many creative ways to reduce food waste, helping ease the environmental burden and usually saving you money at the same time. By thinking about the food your household creates and consumes each day, you can make positive changes to conserve some of the planet's most valuable resources.
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