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Environment | Food | Money | Waste

Reducing the absurd amount of food waste

Mouldy food going to waste showing bread, tomatoes and salad

​It’s staggering, as much as half of all food produced in the world is thrown away, amounting to more than 2 billion tonnes of waste each year. Estimates suggest that the carbon footprint generated by the world’s food waste is more than twice that created by the road transportation industry in America.

A recent study by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that a number of factors were to blame for such huge levels of waste, including poor harvesting, storage and transportation practices, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers and the consumer demand for “cosmetically perfect” food.

“This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands,” the organisation warned. The UK is the worst in Europe and it is no surprise when up to 30% of Britain’s vegetable crops are never even harvested because their physical appearance doesn’t meet exacting standards. Millions of tonnes of edible food, especially fruits, vegetables and bread, are thrown away by the supermarkets every year.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, there are now a rising number of organisations which work to recycle and reduce this outrageous waste.

  1. Every year in the UK we throw away 8.3m tonnes of food and drink, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its ‘Best before’ date. ‘Best before’ dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods and are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.There are now an increasing number of companies and charities cropping up which offer products which have gone past their ‘best before’ date. These include Approved FoodClearance XLA-OK Foods and Expiry Buy.
  2. Other organisations such as ‘Fareshare’ save good food destined for waste and send it to charities and community groups which transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people. The food they redistribute is fresh, high quality and in date surplus from the food industry. Check ‘Fareshare’ for more details on how you can help.
  3. If you love food, hate waste, care about the environment or want to connect with your community then check out OLIO. OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away.OLIO is super easy! To make an item available, simply open the app, add a photo, description, and when and where the item is available for pick-up.To access items, simply browse the listings available near you, request whatever takes your fancy and arrange a pick-up via private messaging.Olio’s philosopy is built around a great concept – Collectively – one rescued cupcake, carrot or banana – and we can build a more sustainable future where our most precious resources are shared, not thrown away.

If you like these ideas contact the organisations involved or search for others online.