By Phoebe Green


In the UK alone, we waste 10 million tonnes of food every year, 70% of which could have been avoided. On a global scale, food waste is a huge environmental problem: it is responsible for 11% of greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third place for its impact on global warming, after the United States and China.

Aside from the environmental impact, we find ourselves in an ethically illogical pit with this epidemic of food waste. How can it be that we live in a country where hunger and food insecurity is still widespread, yet we waste so much perfectly edible food? According to a 2018 study from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are 2.2 million people in the UK classified as “severely food insecure”. The UK is the worst country for food insecurity in all of Europe. Meanwhile households are wasting 13% of perfectly edible food and drink, amounting to 7.1 million tonnes per year.

It is easy to feel powerless when faced with this monstrous problem; as if our individual decisions will have little impact. But the personal and local efforts to become conscious consumers and minimize food waste are surely the best ways to both tackle the problem and to gain media and political attention. Then, further up the food-chain, we will start to see the necessary change.

So here are some suggestions to get you thinking and waste-reducing:

1. Eat it all

The most basic way of reducing your food waste is to eat all of you are eating, or to use all
of the produce in your cooking, i.e. the skins, leaves, core, juices etc. According to Healthline, up to 31% of the total amount of fibre in a vegetable is found in its skin. So, munching kiwi skins and keeping on the carrot peel will do you, and the planet, good. Some tasty recommendations of ‘eating it all’ would be roasting cauliflower leaves with soya sauce, whipping chickpea juice (Aquafaba) for meringues as an egg white replacement and baking pumpkin seeds.

MOB kitchen have some handy tips on their Instagram; such as using parmesan rind as stock, and what to do with left over ginger peel and pickle juice!

If you really can't eat it all up, utilising a food bin or  creating your own compost, makes a huge difference. Throwing food waste into the general bin produces excess carbon dioxide that is not caused by a food-only bin.

Aside from reducing your household food waste, eating fruits and vegetables unpeeled is more nutritious, less hassle and, more importantly, you’ll have less rubbish to take out.

2. Cupboard surprise

A cupboard surprise is the perfect way to minimise your personal food waste. This involves opening your cupboard/ fridge/ freezer and whipping up a meal that has perhaps never been created before or does not have an identifying name. It is a creative melange of different foods that you have lurking in your cupboards. Not only is this waste-reducing and cheaper than buying more food, but it also showcases your culinary innovation.

If you want some cupboard surprise ideas, The Guardian has a page dedicated to creative ways to “Waste Not”. There is an interesting recipe to use stale crisps in a Spanish tortilla.

3. Know your supermarket’s sustainability

Feedback, a food-industry research group, has ranked the UK’s 10 biggest supermarkets in terms of their contribution to the food waste battle. Tesco is ranked the best supermarket because it has done some impressive work. Their CEO, Dave Lewis, has been heavily involved in reaching the target of halving food waste by the year 2030, which is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Tesco has also removed best before dates entirely from about 70 of their fruits and vegetables as they are confusing and frequently result in perfectly edible food being thrown away. The report reveleaed that Waitrose was at the bottom of the supermarket pile as they  failed to produce any food waste data and redistribute only a small amount of their surplus produce. However, in June 2019 Waitrose announced their new sustainability programme and their huge commitment to reducing plastic in their stores. The store has become the latest big supermarket to encourage shoppers to ditch the single-use plastic and by bringing in their own containers, discouraging the use of plastic bags and packaging.

It is important to do your research and be aware of the sustainability of our supermarkets so that we can think about which chains we choose to support.

4. Apps

There are many apps nowadays that redistribute surplus food. You can become a “waste warrior” with apps like Too Good To Go and Karma as they link us with restaurants that have surplus food at the end of the day. Too Good To Go have tasty options like Yo! Sushi and Paul bakery and Karma has some fancy ones on offer like Aubaine, Caravan and the Detox Kitchen. And they are especially tasty when at a fraction of the normal price. There is another app, Olio, which connects local communities so that household surplus food gets shared and not thrown away. For example, if you’re going away and your fridge is full, then you can use Olio to find a neighbour that will pick up your left-over goods. There is also an app called ShareWaste that has created a compost sharing network. It works to connect neighbours who have kitchen scraps with those who are already composting or keep chickens.

5. Volunteer

There are so many charities dedicated to helping the fight against food waste. The charity FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. It has established an extensive network that intercepts surplus food from supermarkets and businesses, distributes it to local charities who then provide meals and help to tackle local hunger. FoodCycle provides tasty meals all over the country to people in need of a hot meal and a bit of friendship. It is a growing charity and there are volunteering opportunities to help with cooking, fundraising or with food collection. The Rainbow Junktion (Leeds) has the mantra to “feed bellies not bins”. It uses surplus food from supermarkets to provide delicious vegan pay-as-you-feel (and BYOB) meals for the public. The money raised is then reinvested into the charity and they host bistros throughout the week for locals living in food poverty.

Donating to your local food bank is also much easier than you may think; many schools, universities and village halls will have one. Find your local here:

As Phoebe Buffet finally discovered, there really is no such thing as a selfless good deed. So, feeling good about yourself after salvaging those cauliflower leaves is absolutely acceptable. If we all believe that our personal and local efforts to reduce food waste will make a difference, then collectively they will. Every little helps.

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