Waste is never good. It’s bad for your pocket and for the environment, and much of it is avoidable.
Take food waste; according to ‘FareShare’, the food redistribution charity, 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK and figures from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) show that UK households binned £13.2bn of ‘edible’ food in 2018. That amounts to an estimated 6.4 million tonnes of household food wasted and around 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions generated for no purpose!
From a purely personal standpoint I have experienced the race to get through certain ‘Use by’ foods in our fridge at home – and then the feeling of guilt as I empty the furred green contents of something that I can’t identify into the kitchen bin. What I wasn’t prepared for were the statistics.
I’m sometimes guilty of shopping without checking what’s already in the fridge, I can be a tad over generous when boiling rice, and that half a loaf of bread which is the consistency of a house brick isn’t going to be given to the birds!
So, what can individual households do to help reduce their food waste? Well perhaps the most important thing to do is to understand what is meant by two familiar terms, ‘use by’ and ‘best before’, on food labels.
According to the Food Standards Agency the ‘use by’ dates are the most important dates to be aware of as they are about food safety. Foods can be eaten until the ‘use by’ date but not after, as these are foods that go off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads. ‘Best before’ dates on the other hand are about quality; the food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Tinned, frozen and dried foods fall into this category.
Resurrected Bites cafés in Harrogate and Knaresborough have been utilising ‘best before’ food, donated by local supermarkets, to provide delicious pay-as-you-feel meals for all. Since lock-down they have been responding to the urgent need for food parcels for those across the Harrogate area who cannot afford to feed themselves and their families.
The website ‘Love Food, Hate Waste,’ offers some great advice on how to tackle household food waste, summarising the issue under three headings; Store Food Properly, Buy What You Need and Eat What You Buy. It covers topics like correct fridge temperature, being storage savvy, and the benefits of freezing food. Having a knowledge of these issues can help a household save money, cut down on food waste and extend the life of the food in their kitchen, so that carbon emissions are not generated producing food we don’t eat.
The idea of buying what you need links directly to the concept of wasting less food. If there’s no excess, there’s no waste. It involves checking your fridge before you shop, asking if the multi-packs are really worth it, it's not a bargain if it ends up in the bin! If you won't eat it in time, leave it on the shelf. Give the loose apples and potatoes a go so you don't waste the rest of the pack.
So next time you’re in the shops just take a moment to check what’s in your basket, will you have time to eat it before its ‘use by’ date? Or when you’re looking over your fruit bowl or fridge, are there any foods that are approaching their ‘best before’ date? If you’re not going to eat them, freeze them!