What will you do for National Zero Waste week

Filed in Blog by on September 1, 2009 20 Comments
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Food waste mountains

Food waste mountains

Yesterday, we announced National Zero Waste week, which takes place 7th-13th September.

This year, instead of running a pledge and win competition, we’re urging a call to action.

There are lots of things you can do to take part and this week we’ll be highlighting some suggested actions.

Food waste is a massive issue. Every year in the UK, the average householder throws away one third of the food they buy.

The collective amount is 6.7 million tonnes or around Β£10.2 billion.

The majority of this food ends up in landfill where it produces methane gas – a gas 23 times more potent than CO2.

In addition to the food waste, most discarded food is wrapped in plastic packaging, which hangs around in the landfill for up to 1000 years.

Our article on reducing food waste is one of the most popular on this site.

During National Zero Waste week why not make a commitment to reducing food waste?

You could pack a zero waste lunch box to take to workΒ  and menu plan around the food you already have in your fridge and cupboards.

Some of the most commonly binned foods are:

  • bread
  • potatoes
  • yogurt
  • chickens
  • vegetables
  • ready meals

How much food waste do you create each week? Could you reduce that waste further?

While we’re busy throwing away perfectly edible food and wondering how to deal with our waste, 9 million people are dying every year because of hunger and malnutrition.
5 million of these are children.


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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (20)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Most food waste goes to our hens now and they eat what I can’t turn into another meal. Today they’ve had a bowl of half eaten cheese scones, a spoon of cooked rice, some soggy cold cooked carrot and a bit of gravy – and they love it. In return they produce eggs – which never get wasted and we’ve not bought any eggs since we’ve had hens – and poo which is fabulous in the compost or in my comfrey plant food. The only ready meals I ever buy now are pies – which come in foil and card so all recycleable packaging – and pizza’s which sadly do have a layer of nasty plastic on them and I really should make my own pizza more often.

    The big thing I need to tackle is my plastic recycling – which I don’t manage as often as I should and I freely admit that it’s pure laziness most of the time as the recycling facilities are out of the way and no any where near anywhere we usually go so it’s a special trip to take it all.

  2. Mr Green says:

    We have a simple concept in our home: we take only what we feel we can eat and come back for more if required. Such a simple concept reduces food waste considerably. Many restaurants have the opposite concept.: Pile the food high and wide and make sure they leave something behind. There is some kind of twisted notion that if people see a huge plate of food and have to leave something behind, they will think it was better value for money. Seems like “stuff yourself until you can’t eat any more” is a feature of a good restaurant.

    There was a restaurant in Oxford called Brown’s which had a famous reputation for excessive plate fulls of food that nearly everyone found too much to eat, and yet this was the main motivation of going there to eat out. Is there a secret wish to see our hunger and gluttony beaten into joyful submission by the excess of food? And if a restaurant fails to do that, do we feel cheated and unsatisfied?

    When I was at school there was a peculiar custom to always leave a bit on the plate, just to demonstrate that you had eaten enough and not been left wanting. Maybe this is the kind of perverse mentality that still drives restaurants to serve too much on the plate and not encourage taking more afterwards, if required.

  3. Poppy says:

    @Mr Green:

    I wish Mr Green! Just spent a few days with some elderly relatives and I was amazed at the amount of food they but away and what they expected an 8 year old child to eat. One day we returned home to beans on toast for me and spaghetti on toast for Master P. Not a probelm you might think …. however …. each plate had 2 slices of very burnt toast and a whole large (15 oz ? ) tin of beans / spaghetti!!!!! Master P ploughed through as much as he could, but failed with the last few pieces of toast. The resulting scene was not pretty and there was nothing I could say that would make them understand that enough was enough!

    I struggled with mine, but realised that a quiet life was preferable! I wish we’d been at the house to stop the plans, but once they’d been made there was no safe way to go back.

    One tin usually does the 3 of us.

  4. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Like last year I plan to reduce waste for the whole 5 days even though my waste is already minimal. Since plastic bottles have been mentioned on our various Zero Waste websites recently, I will avoid all purchases of these items as my contribution.

    Milk will be the main factor and the Sunday preceding will see all milk finished in readiness. The Zero Waste alternatives will include black tea/coffee, tinned evaporated milk for these drinks or a capuccino from M&S on 1 day of the 5, in a local store.

    Finding a source of glass bottled milk, with metal foil top, will be tried with a view to future purchases.

  5. Sharon says:

    I have been working towards creating less waste – with quite alot of success and have made some good new habits.

    I have decided to go completely carrier bag free. I already take my own bags to the supermarket, but still manage to acquire 2 or 3 a week from various purchases where I forgot my own bag, or couldn’t be bothered to stop the shop assistant putting my shopping in one, or something was too big for the bag I had with me. Hopefully a week without plastic carriers will become a lifetime without!

  6. Mr Green says:

    @Poppy: What can I say Poppy …! it’s a familiar story. We need to be careful though as some people find it difficult to express “love” and use food as a means to “lavish” what they can’t express in other ways. I still remember my mother looking upset when I turned down food, as if it was a personal rejection on her wish to give something. It’s a twisted notion that has deep roots in how we view food and self worth … and that’s another story.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: your chickens sound wonderfully pampered; but I love how they give you something great in return; humans could learn from that πŸ˜‰
    It sounds like you have food packaging well under control; I hear you on the convenience side of things – perhaps that could be your challenge for next week..

    @Poppy: OMG – a TIN of beans or spaghetti! Like you one tin does two or three meals. Incredible! Perhaps they gave you so much to hide the taste of the burnt toast πŸ˜›

    @John Costigane: Hi John; what a great challenge you’ve set yourself. I love how you get on board despite the fact you are virtually zero waste already. best of luck with sourcing some milk. Maybe we need to club together and buy you a cow.

    @Sharon: That’s brilliant Sharon; thank you so much for joining in. It’s amazing how long these new habits take to put in place, but you’ve made some fabulous changes πŸ™‚

  8. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi Mrs Green, Taking part will encourage others and I am looking to highlight the plastic bottle issue. Evaporated milk will be fine. If I do find a glass bottle source, that will be the choice from then on. The volume purchased will be lower than the 2-3 2 litre jugs per week used until then. Local sources seem to be better in many ways.

    The cow is an idea but my interest in all the various cuts of meat and offal would be too big a temptation.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: John, do you not have milkman deliveries in your area? You might stand a better chance of getting milk in glass that way. Yes, I see the problem with a cow; I’ll hold back the order then…

  10. @John Costigane: Don’t know if this is any help John but some smaller shops still sell the Sterilised milk in glass bottles with the beer bottle type lid.

    I know I can buy this in my local Spar/Tates.

  11. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: @maisie dalziel: Thanks both for the ideas. There is much less alternative to plastic up here so its farmshop or nothing, locally. I tried a dry run with coffee and tea, if you pardon the expression. Evaporated milk in coffee, with cold water to cool, is perfectly fine. Black tea goes well with food but the final drink is bitter, but no doubt that will become the norm. After all, a week passes quick. Beyond the week, Reduce may be in order ie milk and milk-free alternatives.

    Mrs Green, The Bokashi would have been a nightmare, so thanks again.

    Maisie, My tripe experience is so far extremely negative word-of-mouth, some of the comment loaded I expect. Have you had a positive tripe cooking activity which can inform myself, and other readers?

  12. @John Costigane: John, you could actually reconstitue the evap milk to make it more like normal, which is what was often done during the war even giving it to babies. (don’t have any ratios but i’m sure google would help)

    As for tripe the only time I’ve ever cooked it was when it was greatly reduced so i bought it for the doga and just boiled it up, didn’t fancy it anyway.

    I do seem to remember though that one of the tv chefs proably HFWhit fried it in butter so the edges got crispy but don’t quote me on that.

    Black tea is quite nice if you put some sugar in to take that bitter taste away.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: John, I’ve not had, nor heard of positive experiences with tripe – you’re about to be a pioneer πŸ˜€

  14. Poppy says:

    urgg! My Mum and brother love tripe and always share a meal when one of them decides to indulge. Great big steaming bowls of the stuff with onions. It never ever appealed to me.

  15. John Costigane says:

    @Poppy: It is great to get a positive feedback about tripe. With National Zero Waste Week starting tomorrow, the tripe cooking will be the following week. Onions seem to be a standard accompaniment. One idea is 2 layers of onion with the sliced offal in between. Slow stewing might work here, using tinned tomatoes, and a long slow heat.

  16. Poppy says:

    @John Costigane: I think my Mum does it in a white sauce, so absolutely no tomatoes! I’ll try to remember to ask her and I’ll let you know.

    We added another plus to our efforts today. We reused our empty egg boxes by taking them with us to the farm and re-filling them. I don’t know why we’ve never done that before, but it makes so much sense.

    The lady also showed Master P how they size the eggs. He was particularly interested in the duck eggs and wanted to try them. I said maybe next time. Do they taste the same? Anyone know?

  17. John Costigane says:

    @Poppy: Thanks for the further details. White sauce is not a favourite of mine but the long cooking helps remove elasticity in the tripe. Tomatoes merely give another taste to hide any unpleasant flavour, as with ox liver where it worked wonders.

  18. Greenlady says:

    Whilst I think its acceptable to show love by providing a generous sufficiency of food ( along the lines as Mr Green said of ” there’s more there if you want it ” and being prepared to deal happily and creatively with leftovers ) I don’t think its ok to encourage excessive over eating or waste. But then so many of us have issues around food, and it obviously complicates our attempts at battling food waste……

    @ John Costigane, I approve of offal being used but am not a fan of it myself – comes from two very long periods of being a vegetarian, I am not now but am picky about what meat I eat. I will sometimes eat very carefully prepared lambs liver or chickens liver and I do eat preparations like haggis, ” savoury ducks ” or haslet where the offal is cut up so small it avoids any squeam issues on my part. It must be rememberd there are different types of tripe according to a) which animal it comes from b) which part of which animal, and cooked accordingly. I would agree with cooking in a Mediterranean style with tomatoes is a good idea, and do check out HFW on offal, he has good & tasty ideas too. I found this link which has his recipe and also one from the esteemed Fergus Henderson that sounds something like Poppy’s mum’s way with tripe : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j08x7. Also – dried milk maybe ? as sometimes can be found in recyclable containers.

    @Poppy – yes please do try ducks eggs, they are delicious – similar to hen’s but larger and richer – the last 10 years have seen a revival of them on ” cheffy ” menus but they are just plain yummy anyway ! Great in general cooking too, you would need less of them in cakes etc.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: How neat about the egg boxes. Did you try the duck eggs? They are very different to hen eggs; much richer and they are more porous so best used cooked than raw.

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