18th October 2018

Waste Not, Want Not

Image: Woodley Wonder Works CC BY 2.0

Our theme Grub’s Up is all about making our food more sustainable.  Partly that’s about shifting away from Factory Farming to small-scale sustainable food production.  But it’s also about what we do with or food once it’s produced.

Currently, around a third of all the food we produce gets thrown away.

Lots of food is rejected at the farm, or by shops for not being the right shape / size / ripeness.  Some shops now sell ‘wonky’ fruit and veg at a reduced price – choosing this over ‘perfect’ alternatives can help show that people don’t care if their food is oddly shaped, as long as it tastes good!

A second reason for the amount of waste food is the ‘illusion of abundance’.  Supermarkets want shoppers to feel that the shelves are always bulging – so they stock more than they can sell, and end up throwing lots of it away.  The Real Junk Food Project is challenging this by collecting food that would otherwise be thrown away, and turning it into tasty meals that people can buy on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis.  Pop into one of their community cafes in Brum, or get on the waiting list for a ‘freegan’ food box.  Food Cycle also makes use of food that would otherwise be wasted, providing a Sunday lunch for vulnerable people in Aston.

And, finally, people throw away lots of the food they buy too – often not realising that food past a ‘best before’ date can be perfectly edible. You can check out some of our tips on how to cut down your food waste – whether you’re a meticulous planner or a last-minute improviser!

But food itself isn’t the only cause of waste in the food system – how food is packaged is also a major issue.

12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year.

Blue Planet II was a wake up call to many people that we all need to cut down the amount of plastic that we use once and then throw away.

Supermarkets have been amongst the worst offenders, unnecessarily wrapping food in layers of plastic.  Fruit and veg is often given a cellophane layer to give the impression of ‘freshness’ – but on closer inspection this plastic wrapping has holes punched into it: because in fact trapping some foods in an airtight container can cause them to spoil more quickly!  There have even been instances of food having their natural protective layer removed, and wrapped in plastic – including ready-peeled oranges and tapped coconuts.

As an alternative to this wastefulness, the Clean Kilo is a new shop in Digbeth, which sells non-perishable food with no packaging: you take along your own reusable containers and fill them up in-store.

Convenience food can also come in unsustainable containers – think single-use coffee cups, or plastic straws.  Check out Friends of the Earth’s #PlasticFreeFridays for simple alternatives to single-use plastic.

We can all make small changes to our shopping and eating habits to help protect the environment.  But to really overcome these challenges we need a systemic change away from factory-farming and the supermarket system that is so closely linked to it.

Pop into Peace Hub to support a shift towards agroecology, and take action to keep our trade sustainable.


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