Why food waste should be prevented

Food waste is a huge ongoing global problem that is not discussed often enough in the media. Not only can food waste end up costing you more money, but it can also negatively impact the environment in several ways.

Whether you’ve bought too much from the supermarket, have eyes bigger than your belly when you cook, or have products in your fridge and cupboards that have gone out of date — all that food ends up being wasted.

Likewise, if you run a kitchen in a café or restaurant.

Keep reading for more information on why food waste should be prevented and the ways you can battle the waste.

What is food waste?

Food waste is food that is produced or bought and not eaten. 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally every year.

For example, when food is produced (e.g. fruit and vegetables), if it does not meet certain standards (of size, shape, colour, etc.), it can often be thrown out before it even reaches the supermarket.

However, in recent times, some supermarkets have started selling this produce in store for a cheaper price under branding such as ‘imperfect apples’ and ‘wonky veg’.

Supermarkets also create a lot of food waste themselves — binning food that has passed its ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ date, even when it’s perfectly edible.

Some stores have now joined forces with food waste charities, who redistribute this food, saving it from the bin and feeding the hungry. Not all have, however.

Food waste also happens in the home. This is due to people buying too much fresh food, not using food before its ‘use by’ date, and cooking portions that are too big.

Finally, cafes and restaurants create food waste in a similar manner to both supermarkets and consumers at home.

Why is food waste bad?

When you throw food in the bin, you may not realise the detrimental effect it can have on the environment.

If collected as general waste, food waste reaches landfill sites where it isn’t exposed to enough oxygen and so it begins to rot and decay — releasing methane into the air.

Methane is an extremely harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Each year, UK homes waste 4.5 million tonnes of edible food, which is the CO2 equivalent of someone taking over 4.6 million return flights from London to Perth.

Not to mention the environmental impact of producing the food in the first place.

Alongside its damaging effects on the environment, food waste also burns a hole in your pocket. By wasting food, you are essentially throwing your money into the bin.

Banana skin and an eaten apple.

What food is wasted the most?

Bread has been found to be one of the most wasted foods, with over 240 million slices of bread being thrown away every year.

There are plenty of ways you can avoid throwing your bread away, including freezing an excess loaf while it’s fresh or creating croutons from stale bread.

Each year, 1.3 million apples are thrown away, too. Often, this will be due to incorrect storage which makes apples go bad.

By storing your apples in a dark place and ensuring they don’t touch each other, they will last a lot longer!

How can we prevent food waste?

There are a plethora of ways to prevent food waste, which will benefit not only the environment but also your wallet!

Here are some suggestions.

Keep track of food waste

A great place to start is to keep track of what you are currently throwing away.

If you’ve found that you’re consistently throwing away bread or potatoes, for example, then it is vital to cut down on these items when you next go shopping — or reduce portion sizes.

By recognising the food you are throwing away and the reasons behind it, you are going to be much more aware when you are writing your shopping list or placing an order.

Write a shopping list

By planning your meals out and writing a shopping list, you are sure to buy exactly what you need.

It is crucial when you go shopping that you stick to the list and don’t deviate. As tempting as it can be to throw other items in your trolley, it will only be wasted.

A shopping list with bread, milk, eggs and tomatoes.

Control meal portions

We have all fallen victim to making too much pasta! Often, portion sizes can be tough to determine.

When you’re about to cook some food, make a smaller amount than necessary. If you’re still hungry afterwards, it is easy to go back and make more.

If you run a food business and are finding that you’re encountering lots of leftovers on plates, try reducing your portion sizes.

However, if you do create a huge portion at home that is too much for one sitting, make sure to save your leftovers.

Whether you eat leftovers the next day or freeze them, it will help to prevent the food from being wasted.

Store your food correctly

If you don’t store your food in the right place, it can expire before its use-by date.

Typically, if you check the label on foods, it will explain how and where you should be storing the item.

Freezy does it! A freezer essentially acts as a pause button. If your plans have been cancelled, you can freeze a lot of your food to extend its life.

Recycle your food waste

Often, local councils will offer residents food waste bins to help encourage food waste recycling.

If you have a food waste bin, you should be filling it with items such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Bread
  • Cooked and uncooked food
  • Out-of-date food
  • Teabags
  • Coffee grounds
  • Uneaten leftovers

However, you mustn’t put items such as packaging, plastic bags or pet waste into your food waste bin.

Once the food waste bins have been emptied, the waste goes through a procedure called anaerobic digestion.

This involves food waste being ground up and passed into heated digester tanks. The methane that is produced in the tanks is used to generate electricity, which is fed into the National Grid to power homes and businesses!

The nitrogen-rich liquid which is left at the end of the process is pasteurised and used as a farm fertiliser.

Although food waste collections are usually frequent, due to COVID-19, many councils have paused collections and recommend disposing of food waste in your black bin or by home composting.

Here at Forge Recycling, we offer regular food waste collections from businesses to prevent food waste from ending up in landfill sites.

Our bins are emptied weekly and we can supply you with kitchen caddies and regular bin washes, to make your food waste collection process hassle-free.