Why we need to tackle kitchen waste right now

Let's commit to throwing away less food. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Let's commit to throwing away less food. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We need to be more mindful of our shopping habits, what we buy and what we throw away.

Hands up if you watched the Beeb's closing episode of Blue Planet 2 in horror?

'The future of all life now depends on us,' was the rallying cry from TV veteran David Attenborough, following heartbreaking scenes of albatross ramming plastic into their chicks' beaks.

It's just not good enough is it? I'm sick to my stomach of reading stories of our detrimental, corrosive effects on the environment.

I mean, have you seen pictures of the 'plastic garbage patch' in the Pacific? Reportedly it's bigger than Mexico. A floating abomination bigger than an entire country. Created by us.

Now look, I'm not suggesting we all grow dreads, live in trees and join Greenpeace, but there are lots of things we can do, small changes we can make, that collectively could have a significant impact on the health of our environment. Many of these begin in the kitchen and the way in which we buy food.

I'm not the biggest Michael Gove fan, but was pleased to see him announce before Christmas a four point plan to tackle plastic waste, so there are baby steps from the Government to make changes.

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And kudos to the council in Oxford, which a couple of years ago banned non-recyclable takeaway containers in its bid to slam down on waste.

But what about us? What can we do? Simple. We have to use our purchasing power.

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to only buy food that comes in recyclable packaging. My jaw dropped when I saw how many storecupboard basics contained unnecessary or unrecyclable plastic.

I'm talking about cardboard packets of rice with non-recyclable plastic 'windows'. Come on Sainsburys – I know what's in the box!

And don't even get me started on crisp packets (in practically every child and many adults' lunchboxes) most of which cannot be recycled.

Previously published statistics estimate we eat around six billion packets of crisps a year in the UK. That's potentially six billion pieces of plastic going to landfill.

Where is the innovation from industry? Where are the solutions to tackle plastic waste at source?

M&S has said it will slash the amount of plastic used to make all packaging by 2022 – and yet just this week the store was challenged for selling plastic wrapped slices of cauliflower as 'cauliflower steak' for the handsome price of £2! What does a whole cauliflower cost? About 60p?

As consumers we need to think more about what we're throwing in our baskets, and we need to take a stand. Buy loose fruit and vegetables where you can.

Start reading labels. If packaging you think should be recyclable isn't, name and shame the brand, and stop buying from them. Isn't this what the power of media is for?

Rethink your coffee pod machine. Yeah, yeah they're convenient, but each plastic pod takes 500 years to biodegrade – a fact that led Hamburg in Germany to ban coffee pods from its state-run buildings.

If you really can't live without your Nespresso, bear in mind the pods can now be recycled at one of their boutiques or by posting them back to the brand. While Illy, Dolce Guston and Tassimo have their own recycling schemes to make use of.

We need to start buying only exactly what we need. If it's one apple or banana you want, don't grab a whole bag. Look at your bin waste. Smart professional chefs go through their bins to see what junior members of the kitchen team are throwing away unecessarily and we need to be just as savvy.

If we're chucking out three bags of salad leaves every week, why are we still buying them?

Let's freeze our leftovers, or cook less – I'm just as bad as anyone at getting the portions of rice and pasta wrong (apparently 75g dried weight is enough for one). And let's store our food better.

We're never going to go back to the 'good old days' where everything's weighed out by a friendly village grocer – heck I get impatient waiting at the self-service supermarket tills - but let's be more mindful at least. Let's do small things and make big things happen together.

Local businesses are doing their bit

Several companies in the east of England are taking their environmental responsibilities seriously, leading where others can follow.

Adnams has a full time environmental manager.

At Humdinger Produce, growing over six farms (35,000 acres) in the Suffolk Sandlings area, all waste potatoes and turnips go to cattle or are fed into the business's 'big concrete cow' to ferment down and create energy – enough to power the whole of Woodbridge!

Harleston Cider Co donates the pomace from its apple pressings to smallholders of pigs or rescued animals.

And, recently, Paddy and Scott's has revealed its fully compostable cups (including the lids) made from paperboard and corn starch, plus a water-based ink.

CEO of Paddy and Scott's, Scott Russell said: 'The impact of our products on the environment has always been at the forefront of what we do. We were the first UK coffee company to introduce non-aluminium coffee packaging for our retail and wholesale coffee, which can be recycled (standard aluminium foil is used extensively in coffee packaging due to its barrier qualities, but cannot be recycled). This has increased our base costs but we've not passed this on to the consumer.'