Food waste management has long been a challenge in the UK, and even more so during the lockdown when large amounts of hoarded food is being thrown out uneaten. Not only could much of the wasted food have been redirected to those with food insecurity, but there is also a considerable impact on the environment in terms of resources wasted.
However, all is not gloomy on that front. Britain has made significant strides in combating food waste in recent years, to the extent of cutting down waste by 11% over the last three. The secret? It focused on household waste.
WRAP reported a 34% wastage reduction in the household on four essential food items (chicken, milk, potatoes and bread) in May 2020. UK citizens bought more fresh produce, less pre-cut vegetable packs, more life-long products and ready-to-eat meals; resulting in less food thrown away.
There are three main components to Britain’s strategy for combating this household waste, which are as follows:
1. Targeted campaigns
Getting an entire population to change their daily habits is hard. Accordingly, Britain conducted multiple surveys and extensive research. It then launched public campaigns under ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ to promote actions that would have the most impact on reducing food waste.
For instance, people in Britain throw out about 20 million slices of bread a year. In response, a new campaign was launched called ‘Make Toast Not Waste’ that encouraged people to freeze bread and then toast the frozen slices.
Plus, food waste management and recycling solutions company such as Waste2ES are aggressively promoting several habits amongst the UK households, including:
2. Technology can help save our environment and generate revenue
a. Decluttering the fridge
Being mindful about the quantities of food people purchase and ensuring they place the older items are placed at the front of the fridge so that they are quickly used is a necessity.
b. Using the freezer
Freezing extra portions of cooked meals and even older, raw vegetables and fruits so that they do not get spoiled and can be used for making broths, soups and smoothies, and can help prevent unnecessary food waste.
c. Composting the leftovers
There are a number of fantastic countertop or small indoor composting systems that require little effort and mean you benefit from your waste food.
The Greencone & Green Johanna from Great Green Systems and Green Cone Food Waste Digester – Great Green Systems are two examples widely adopted and loved by their owners.
2. Improved food labelling
About 20% of avoidable household food waste in the UK is because of confusion about food labels. Lack of awareness about ‘best before’ versus ‘use by’ dates, inconsistent terminology and lack of education about what food labels mean all contribute to this.
In response, WRAP and the British food industry collaborated to release new food labelling guidelines in 2017.
Among these guidelines are specifications about positioning food labels only on the front of the packaging, putting ‘use by’ dates only on foods that could pose health hazards and putting ‘best before’ labels on other food packages only to indicate peak quality.
Grocers and supermarkets have now started making a conscious effort to guide customers by the “best before” dates on food packets, which often do not indicate the actual expiry or spoilage date of the food item.
Retailers are regularly surveyed to check that they are following these guidelines, and survey results and research are used to update the policies as and when needed. For instance, labelling has been removed entirely from most fresh produce.
3. Curbside organics collection
Even in households that consciously minimise food waste, there will always be scraps that cannot be eaten. Many of these inedible food scraps are ideal for composting or for putting into anaerobic digestion to be transformed into useful soil additives, rather than being sent to landfill. Accordingly, Britain rolled out a campaign in 2018 for weekly curbside organic waste collection in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Moreover, in keeping with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, producers of packaging have to follow producer responsibility regulations, which means a focus on reducing and recycling the packaging materials that they add to commerce and which end up in the general waste stream.
Over to you
Since the UK has committed to cutting down food waste by half by 2030, how we proceed towards meeting this goal is going to be interesting. Of course, every business in different industries has to make a conscious effort to reduce food waste.
The truth is, with the help of the right technology or equipment, citizens can do their bit to curb wastage, reduce food waste to landfill and even ensure cost savings. If your business wants to put together a process to combat food waste, get in touch with us to understand how we can help you or visit www.waste2es.com for more info.