Updated: Jan 15, 2020
During a trip to Co-op to buy one loose Jacket Potato, I was faced with the fact this wasn't possible without buying a whole pack wrapped in plastic. So I turned to the reduced section and was reminded of @LessWasteLaura's recent post about the irresponsible throwaway behaivour from Waitrose when their reduced stock isn't purchased.
She explains after speaking to a member of staff at Waitrose how the food which is perishable (fruit and veg and fridge items) all goes into the bin when it is not sold. It is NOT removed from the packaging, it is NOT seperated and composted and the packaging is NOT recycled. It all goes to Landfill, where it will take years to decompose.
She says the only items donated through schemes were non-perishables (eg. cereal, dry boxed items). So don't believe everything you read about supermarkets donating their waste items because in fact the MAJORITY doesn't.
After reading this I changed my approach of shopping, from making sure it was plastic free to purchasing the reduced items and designing our meals around what I picked up. I hate the amount of plastic but I thought at least I am stopping it all from going into landfill and I can benefit from the food and hopefully dispose of some of the packaging in a more sustainable way!
Why is food waste so bad?
Food waste is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, the thing that causes global warming and drives climate change! In particular when not disposed of correctly (landfill not compsoting) it releases CH4:Methane, which is 16 times more harmful than CO2:Carbon Dioxide. Thus contributing to the warming of the planet! And it isn't a small amount, 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK, yet 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat!
It doesn't add up and something needs to change.
Supermarkets have stupid rules like if one egg is cracked they will throw out the entire box, they won't allow staff to take reduced items if they are about to be thrown away. If a chilled item is left out of the fridge it will be thrown or if on the rare occasion the fridges/freezers malfuction certain stores will bin EVERYTHING! The amount that gets binned is unbelievable and reading comments from supermarket employees, even they can't believe how much get's thrown.
So what can we do?
Althought I am a massive advocate for shopping plastic free or from refill stores it's always worth taking a look in the reduced section to see if you could replace something you've already picked up with something you could save from landfill and use straight away.
Check out apps such as 'Olio' or 'Too Good To Go' that connect you with establishments or people that have leftovers or items that are scheduled to be disposed of. After first publishing this post I was shocked to see the massive collection of fruit and veg @OatSpoken collected from her local Morissons through 'Too Good To Go', all for 3 pounds!!! Which I have shared a picture of below.
This has shifted my perspective slightly and shown me some supermarkets are aware of the waste they create and are making progress. I will definitely be paying much closer attention to this incredible app because the value for the amount you get is amazing. Plus all of my favourite Vegan restaurants are on there, so when I don't fancy cooking I can collect an amazing cheap meal which they create from the leftovers of the day!
However, there is only so much that we as individuals can do, it needs to be a system change that supermarkets or the governement are responsible for. It's encouraging to see Morrisons getting involved in great schemes to reduce their waste and I hope others follow suit.
How about supermarkets reducing their leftover items even further to ensure they are bought and so it's affordable to everyone, instead of just knocking 25p off.
I will do some more research on the different schemes Supermarkets are involved with because surely someone has set up a store to shelter business, providing homeless shelters with the unbought, soon to be out-of-date items!
But if you do want to do more you can write to the branch manager of your chosen supermarket, call them out on social media, converse with a staff member or even contact your MP stating there needs to be change and some kind of regulation on supermarkets overordering and disposing of their waste. After reflecting on the amount of waste created at Christmas it's easy to see how supermarkets over order for our highly consumerist society.
When it comes to your own food waste, you know what I'm talking about - that soggy courgette and mouldy yoghurt you forgot about. My advice would be meal plan as much as possible and anything you are left with FREEZE. The freezer is one of our greatest inventions and will definitely help when you have picked up 20 potatoes from Morrisons to eat all by yourself! Make soups and sauces and whatever you can't eat in the next few days FREEZE it!
We as a country need to shift our perspective on food standards and treat food as the precious resource it is. The day after 'best before' doesn't mean the food becomes poisonous! We need to learn more and change our flippant disposal behaivour, whilst encouraging awesome schemes preventing the ever growing mountain of food waste.