Why we should all keep food out of landfill

Filed in Blog by on July 23, 2012 11 Comments
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How much of this food would you have thrown away?

How much of this food would you have thrown away?

How much of your weekly landfill waste is food? WRAP estimate around one fifth of household waste is made up of food and collectively we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food every year in the UK.

Here’s a great example of how to prevent food waste, save money and eat home cooked food that is both quick and convenient.

This week in the fridge I had a few pieces of cooked broccoli and carrot from Sunday lunch, two tablespoons of sweetcorn, 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 slice ham and the remainder of some cream in a tub.

These are typical ingredients that people throw into the bin. They assume that there isn’t enough for a complete meal, so into the landfill they go.

Unfortunately, food doesn’t rot down in landfill like it does in a compost bin. Instead, due to the absence of oxygen, food starts to produce methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is 23 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and contributes to global warming.

According to the Environment Protection Agency, for every tonne of food waste we keep out of the landfill, we prevent 6 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

Here’s how I combined my ‘food waste’ leftovers this week to make a virtually instant meal!

I cooked up some pasta (I used macaroni because that only takes a few minutes), chopped my leftovers up and tossed them around like a stir fry in some hot oil for a few moments, drained the pasta, added the stir fry and poured cream over it all.

If you wanted to, you could add some grated cheese to the top and grill it, but Little Miss Green, who was claiming starvation and neglect at the time, just ate it as it was.

I thought I’d made enough for 2 meals, but there certainly wasn’t any food waste this time around because LMG scraped the saucepan clean and ate the lot!

What about you? What meal have you made this week from leftovers or how could you start to reduce your weekly food waste?


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 (11)

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  1. mieke says:

    Since a few months I started , one time every week, to eat a left-over(-cold)-salad. Where I basicly use all of the ‘leftover’ food from one week.
    Sometmes the combinations are weird. I also make it into a pasta, depending on what’s left over. Since heating lettuce isn’t a good thing!

    I also would have used the above leftovers for a meal, coooking up some rice and mixing the above leftovers with some pesto.

  2. I regularly blog about trying to reduce food waste (along with lots of other bloggers) every ‘Food Waste Friday’ ! My top tip for reducing food waste is to menu plan if you can. This prevents food waste by 1) ensuring meals are based on what’s in the house and 2) if a food shop is required, only buying what’s needed.

  3. CarSue says:

    Sunday night, we used up a half cucumber and quarter onion to make a really nice little side dish (I added some fresh mint from the garden, a splash of lemon juice, and a tad of olive oil, letting it sit in the fridge for an hour before serving). It was lovely!

    Last week, we also used up 2 ears of sweet corn (oops, bought too much again!) by taking off the kernels, tossing in a saucepan with diced onion, mushroom, and bell peppers. A dash of cumin & cayenne pepper, and we rolled it all up in tortilla shells. Yum.

  4. Pat says:

    This has been my one New Year’s Resolution that I’m still doing – using up all leftovers. I work really hard at not throwing away any food and have become pretty creative with what I’ve made. Last week we had hamburgers one day, then they became salisbury steak in gravy with mash potatoes, then a few days later that became beef stew with carrots and peas. Sometimes my hubby doesn’t even recognize that the new dish was a leftover to begin with (which makes me feel really good).

  5. Ellen Perrin says:

    Leftovers – what leftovers?? All of ours become next day’s lunch for work, usually in the guise of a salad. Veg trimmings and ‘wiggy’ forgotten scraps in the bottom fridge drawer go in the compost bin, so I only bin meat bones through necessity (no convenient dog to use as dustbin!)
    Luckily (or not, in the case of my hips), I was brought up to clear my plate, and as I’ve got older I can’t bear to waste *anything*.

  6. Naomi says:

    I didn’t realize that happened. We don’t put any food in the trash but mostly because there is almost none and what little there is (peels, cores, stuff like that) goes into the compost bin which is in the chicken’s area. Mostly they knock it over and I have yet to get actual compost from it but it’s all good. And now I’m putting the coffee grounds directly on the garden so that’s some small thing in the way of compost attempts.

  7. Jean says:

    We don’t have any left overs we 3 dogs and 6 cats to finish most of our left overs and what they can’t have we give it to our friends pigs, so all good in this house hold
    Love your site by the way

  8. Jane says:

    If our cats have left any food, and it is too dried up to disguise as a new meal for them, we feed it to the birds. Apart from that, in general, I would not see food that has not been eaten as “leftovers” but as food to put back in the fridge for another day. Leftover boiled potatoes make a lovely treat of fried potatoes, leftover vegetables go into a stir fry or salad, and left over meat just gets brought out again for inclusion in another meal. Even without leftovers, we still have a significant amount of food waste (for example, banana skins, orange peel, carrot tops, squash peel, egg shells, tea leaves, chicken bones and fat). We compost most of this. We are also lucky enough to have a weekly kerb-side food waste collection, and use this for things we would prefer not to put in our compost heap (such as chicken bones and fat). We would never put food waste in our landfill bin. I would suspect that the biggest waste of food is by the supermarkets. When we went to the supermarket a few weeks ago, a man who worked there was busy throwing away a lot of bananas becaust they were bruised. They looked perfectly good to eat to me. He said that they could not give the food they threw away to a charity, etc. because if anyone became ill or anything from this food, they could – and probably would – sue the supermarket.

  9. Jane says:

    I now have two fridges to try and control. Pa-in-law’s and ours. We go there and buy enough food for him for a week but he is not used to food management and I make a list of menus for the carers but they don’t keep to it. If they aren’t careful the dates all go wrong and the risks I take I won’t let him take. Last week I took the remains of the celery and the Little Gem lettuces out of the bin (nothing else in there) as I was horrified that someone had just decided their time was up. The remains of the celery is the best bit! So I’ve washed it and eaten it. If you have a bit of not so fresh celery it can be quickly turned into a waldorf salad with chopped apple and walnuts and mayonnaise.

    I suppose I now have to do another notice for the fridge with the difference between Use By and Best Before dates. We bring back food that is out of date that we’ll eat and the remains of the ingredients that I bought to cook whilst there that carers won’t know what to do with.

    Made a nice cake with eggs I took out the bin the previous week (they were one day over their best before date and best before is use by for eggs which is a ridiculous state of affairs). Although I know it is bad eggs which float I don’t want to introduce Pa-in-law to great amounts of salmonella.

  10. Jane says:

    @Jane: No I’m not talking to myself! Ridiculous about the bananas, I don’t like bruised bits but you can always cut the bruised bits off. We’re still whizzing them up with cold milk: Break up a banana in the bottom of a glass jug (or other suitable receptacle) and add a little milk. Whizz with a stick whizzer, then add up to the 12 fluid oz mark with cold milk. Yummy! You can use UHT and not know it.

  11. Grace Wolff says:

    I think that sounds like a brilliant meal! Made me hungry 😉
    I enjoyed your breakdown of why food waste is a big deal. I also did not know that by reducing it by 1ton would reduce CO2 by 6! That is great. Sometimes, if my veggies are starting to get soggy, but are still edible, I will throw them into a blender with some fruit and milk and make a delicious and nutritious smoothie!

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