Preventing Food Waste
As a community we must all strive to reduce and ultimately prevent wasting food. The obvious waste of our food resources is something we must address when so many are experiencing food shortages both at home and abroad.
Adopt a zero-waste approach to food.
Much of a weekly household budget can be wasted purchasing food which is then thrown into the bin as waste. This article is a general guide only, and for more detailed advice and guidance we would strongly recommend visiting Stop Foodwaste Website, which has lots of facts, tips, recipes, and downloadable data.
Out of sight, Out of Mind – Thinking of waste, including food waste, most responsible households leave out bins out each week (or fortnight) for collection – we tend not to consider where the waste ends up, as long as it is collected it’s no longer our problem. But correctly disposing of our waste (whether recyclable or not) is our responsibility, and we can help in this process by correctly segregating our waste – and more importantly reducing the amount of all kinds of waste we produce. We have limited waste processing or storage facilities in Ireland – we cannot export our waste to become someone else’s problem.
We should (and indeed must) either individually or as a community be engaging in practices to promote and realise the concept of zero-waste
Before you begin to reduce your food waste, you must first check what and how much food you are throwing out – eliminating products you throw out will result in:
- Needing to purchase less amounts / types of food;
- Saving €€€ on your weekly shopping;
- Having less (or ultimately no food waste) to throw out;
The Stop Foodwaste Website states that:
- Salads – we throw out 50% of our purchases;
- Fruit / Veg – we throw out 25% of our purchases – primarily potatoes, bananas & apples;
- Bread – we throw out 5% of our purchases;
- Meat / Fish – we throw out 10% of our purchases;
- Milk/Dairy/Yogurts – we throw out 10% of our purchases;
- The average Irish household is binning between €400 – €1,000 worth of food each year.
The Waste Management Hierarchy shows the best sequence of steps you should take – Elimination of waste is the best environmental option, Disposal is the worst environmental option. Yet it is estimated that 33% of foodwaste is caused at source (farm/factory), 33% is caused in the retail/warehousing, and 33% of foodwaste is created in the home. One estimate suggests that here in Ireland, we generate nearly 1 million tonnes of food waste annually.
Elimination of Food Waste:
- Plan your weekly food requirements, and do not over-purchase food – make a shopping list;
- Use food that is close to its use by date first (first in first out) – store older items nearer the front of the fridge or kitchen press, within easy reach;
- Don’t buy in bulk unless you can use the foodstuffs within the stated “Use-by” date – ‘Use-by’ dates must be followed, ‘Best before’ dates are a guide – use your common sence;
- Only cook sufficient food to suit the number of persons expected at the table, unless you can safely freeze or store the food for use in the future;
- Just because the fruit or vegetable has a misshapen appearance – don’t throw it out, shape will not affect the taste of the food – they are still perfect to eat within their “Use-by” date;
- Forgotten, spoilt or food past its “use by” date will ultimately be thrown out– so ensure your fridge temperature or storage conditions are suitable ;
- Correct storage may maintain freshness, and extend the time in which you can use the food;
Reduce Food Waste – Love your Leftovers:
- Plan menu so that foodstuffs and vegetables can be used in a variety of dishes;
- Prevent food waste caused by over preparation, over trimming (or peeling) – when cooking try to use the whole vegetable, many vegetables do not need skins removed – just a thorough cleaning before cooking – again use your common sence in this regard;
- Consider serving portions to suit the individual diners needs, as this will prevent generating uneaten food scraps;
- Consider getting together with your friends and neighbours and organising a community garden, grow what you need, and where you have excess share with your friends and neighbours;
- Monitor what you do throw away for a short period, and plan to eliminate this waste by revising your weekly shopping list – this will save you money – both at the shop and in waste disposal charges;
- Eat at restaurants which have adopted best practice in eliminating food waste;
- Choose a reduced or ½ portion if you cannot face the full meal;
- Ask for a “doggy bag” and bring any uneaten portion of your meals home;
- Be proactive in reducing food waste;
- Consider selling imperfect or ‘misshapen’ produce or short-dated products at a reduced cost;
- Donate excess or short-dated foodstuffs to a local charity, food-bank, or homeless hostel if you are not going to use it, but ensure you donate well before the “use by” date;
- Remember food safety rules for freezing, storage, reheating etc.;
- Store excess food in a freezer (where suitable for freezing), or in a safe / hygienic manner;
- Reuse suitable leftover cooked / uncooked foods in soups, casseroles and pies etc.;
Recycle Food Waste:
- Compost at home, greens, organics, breads, fruit, tea-bags, paper towels etc., following best practice – remember meats, fatty food, oil and grease cannot be composted in the conventional garden composter (they can attract vermin);
- Some “brown bin” providers permit recycling of meat, fish and bones – check with your waste management provider;
- Segregate food waste and compost via brown bin supplied by your licensed waste management company;
- Anaerobic digestion (if you have the space, and a suitable site) visit Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland Website;
- Animal feed for household pets (some food waste may be suitable);
- Households may also bring the food waste themselves to authorised treatment centres, such as civic amenity sites, anaerobic digestion sites, for recovery in an environmentally acceptable (and legal) manner, or (possibly) for incineration;
- Organise a cooking demonstration in your home, community centre, club or school – using leftovers to create interesting and appetising meals;
- Exchange leftover food recipe with friends and family;
- Educational talks on the environmental, social and financial costs of food waste and how to reduce it in homes and businesses;
Disposal of Food Waste:
This is by far the least favourable environmental option because when food waste is disposed of in landfill, it decomposes generating gases such as methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Leachate from the landfill can find its way into our local streams and rivers causing pollution problems.
“In Ireland we are generating at least 1 million tonnes of food waste each year with the majority of this managed in Ireland. While some is composted or rendered for animal food most of it ends up in landfills……But this is only part of the problem, there is a whole load of environmental impacts long before we the consumers dispose of our food waste”. #1
By this stage Waste Contractors in Newbridge will be providing a separate collection service for household food waste to ensure such waste is diverted from landfill, and these brown bins have been rolled out for some time in Newbridge – so segregate food waste and place in the organic recycling “brown” bin.
- Do not dispose of food waste and cooking oils “down the drain”, as it only removes the problem to the waste-water treatment plant, that is if it doesn’t block your waste-water pipes in the first place! (This includes macerating (shredding) or hydrating food waste by mechanical devices facilitating its disposal in a drain or sewer.)
- Where your kerbside contractor provides a “brown bin” for organic or food waste households are no longer allowed to dispose of food waste in the landfill waste bin (the black / blue bin);
- Never dispose of food / organic waste in council street bins, or at roadside locations;
As a country we are increasingly becoming obliged to prevent food waste, biodegradable materials from entering landfill dumps. Regulations controlling disposal of Household Food Waste have been signed into law on 7th March 2013 [(S.I. No. 71 of 2013) European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio -Waste) Regulations 2013)]. The regulations are designed to promote the segregation and recovery of household food waste, and will increase the amount of food waste that is recovered through the production of energy, compost and digestate, thus redirecting food waste from municipal landfill sites to composting and other forms of treatment. #2
You must ensure that you store, and cook food properly and safely, consuming incorrectly or inadequately cooked or prepared foodstuffs can be detrimental to your health.
Stop Foodwaste Website
Stop Food Waste Website. 2015. What are the environmental costs?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.stopfoodwaste.ie/food-we-waste/the-food-waste-story/. [Accessed 20 May 15].
Irish Statute Book. 2013. S.I. No. 71 of 2013 European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio -Waste) Regulations. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/pdf/2013/en.si.2013.0071.pdf. [Accessed 20 May 15].