This quiz from The Guardian popped up on my Facebook page recently on the subject of food waste and the figures are staggeringly frightening. Here are just a few:
- Each year the UK wastes 7 million tonnes of food, enough to fill 9 Wembly stadiums
- The equivalent of 86 million chickens are thrown away each year in the UK
- 24 million slices of bread are chucked DAILY in the UK
- and 1.4 million bananas every day
- Food waste costs the average family £60 per month or over £700 per year.
|Image from University of Northern Iowa|
There are many campaigns out there to try and get people to reduce the waste but I do think that if waste is to be reduced on a dramatic scale then we need to identify why people throw away so much food, much of which is still in a perfectly edible state.
Reasons food is wasted
Changes in shopping habits
Not may years ago people shopped every day for fresh meat, fish and fruit/vegetables. This was a necessity with little or no refrigeration available but it did mean less waste. Now people shop on a weekly, fortnightly and even monthly basis, expecting their fresh food to last and maybe not being too sure how much they will need for the duration so overbuy just to be on the safe side. Overbuying leads to waste.
Much of our fresh food now comes packaged so you'll need to buy the amount the supermarket thinks you want rather than what you actually need. Single people are forced to buy more than they need and a family of 5 may well have to buy 2 packets of chops, for example, if the chops are only sold in packs of 4 or 2.
How often are you tempted to buy a special offer or extras because they are on a Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) promotion? It's all very well if you can eat all you buy but in reality a certain amount of these "free" extras end up in the bin, especially fresh produce.
|Image from The Telegraph|
Lost cooking skills
Too many people now have never been taught to cook and have no idea how to cook left-overs. Some are quite happy to follow a recipe but with no recipe to hand that tells you what to do with your left-overs this food heads to the bin.
Poor portion control
It is not always easy to gauge exactly how much to cook. Appetites can vary or some-one can ring at the last minute to say they won't be home to eat and excess food wings it way to the bin.
Food is cheap
You might not think so as the till racks up your weekly shop but actually a lot of food is cheaper now than it has ever been and so it can be perceived less of a issue if some of it ends up in the bin. After all, a few slices of bread only represent a few pence/cents but add them up over the year and you soon reach big figures.
Confusing dates on packaging
Sell by / display until / best before / use by / eat before. What exactly do they all mean? People now use these dates as the deciding factor as to whether they should eat something or bin it when in fact the dates do not all mean the same thing and do not all mean the food is no longer edible:
- Sell by / Display Until - the date the shop must sell it by ... it will be edible beyond this date
- Best Before - for the product to be at it's very best eat it before this date. After the date it will still be perfectly safe to eat for several days but may just lose a touch in quality
- Use by / eat before - this is the date that manufacturers advise easting the product before. However they always give a small amount of leeway especially if the product has been very well stored. Products don't just go off at midnight on the use by date but too many people are wary of eating anything after this date, even if it looks fine and off to the bin it goes.
|Confusing labelling - Image from Daily Mail|
Perfect foodWe have reached a stage where only perfect looking food is perceived as good enough to eat. A large apple may have a small blemish so in the bin it goes, rather than simply cutting off the bad bit. A slightly shrivelled end of a carrot renders it as inedible in the eyes of too many people.
Andrea, in the comments section, raised a couple of points that I have added here:
Too far distanced from food productionToo many people have no idea what actually goes into food production. If they raised their own animals or grew their own vegetables and fruit they might appreciate the hard work and not be happy to just lob something in the bin.
There is always more foodOur shops rarely run short of food. As well as big supermarkets in every town there are town centre stores and corner shops as well as an ever increasing number of take-aways. With food so easily accissible it is not a problem if food at home is thrown away as more can so easily be bought.
Do you throw away food? If so, maybe you can identify why from the list above. Understanding why is the first step to solving the problem of food waste and you could be well on your way to saving enough money for a holiday every year.
And if you throw away bananas do have a look at this blog post - 3 brilliant banana recipes.