Blog: Let's Talk About Food Waste
David Weber

28 September 2022

Just 1kg of food waste produces carbon emissions equivalent to landfilling 25,000 plastic bottles

That’s astonishing when you think about the impact on climate change.  And it’s a problem that’s not likely to go anywhere soon.  Around one-third of food produced across the world is discarded and ruined.  An equally shocking amount when there’s so many people suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Closer to home, food waste continues to be a major problem.  Here in Scotland, households throw out a whopping 600,000 tonnes of food waste every year – that’s the same weight of 2,000 Kelpie statues.  Top of the guilty list are potatoes, bread, milk, fizzy drinks, and poultry.

As someone who has been working in the food waste industry for many years, it’s vital that we shine a spotlight on this climate issue.  Food waste should be a priority that we all buy into so that we can all play our part – no matter how big or small.

A major contributor to climate change

It pains me to say that even in this current day, many people don’t appreciate the environmental significance of food waste.  Yes, there have been tremendous strides in areas such as single-use plastics reduction and embracing renewable technologies, but we still have some way to go when it comes to tackling this issue.

For starters, there’s a massive amount of resource that goes into food production.  Harvesting, processing, packaging and transportation all draw heavily on resources such as water, energy, land, and fuel.  When we waste food, we waste all these resources too.

When food waste ends up in landfill, it rots and gives off methane which is considerably more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.  Not to mention the damage to our fragile ecosystems.

Food waste alone accounts for one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.  To put this into perspective, food waste accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than air travel every year.  Quite incredible.

Reduce then recycle: How you can help

The good news is that by taking even the smallest steps, we can collectively make a difference. 

First off, consider the amount of food you’re purchasing and throwing away.  As well as protecting the environment, it’s estimated the average Scottish family could save around £440 every year.

Get creative in the kitchen.  Love Food, Hate Waste offers easy-to-follow recipes to help you make the most of any leftovers.  And don’t forget to make the most of your freezer.  Things such as milk, cheese, eggs and even some fruits can safely be frozen without affecting quality or taste.

And for the green-fingered among us, why not consider growing your own fruit and veg?  Get Growing Scotland provides lots of handy tips on how to get started.

In saying that, there will always be an element of food waste that is simply unavoidable – think eggshells, peelings, meat bones and teabags.  That doesn’t mean that they should go into the general bin though.  By putting this waste in your food waste caddies, you can help generate valuable new resources such as renewable energy, heat, and fertiliser. Here at our own specialist Bioresources Centre near Cumbernauld, we’ve been transforming food waste into renewable energy for over a decade.  So far, we’ve helped divert over 170,000 tonnes of waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

VIDEO: Click HERE to watch the food waste journey, from plate to energy.

Reduce then recycle: How businesses can help

Since legislation was introduced in Scotland in 2016 requiring all businesses that produce over 5kg of food waste per week to separate it for collection, there has been some improvement in recycling rates.  But again, there’s still some way to go.

Most happens at the production, spoilage, and preparation stages.  With better stock management, storage, handling and serving sizes, businesses can do their bit for the planet and save money.

It’s encouraging to see some organisations such as supermarkets taking the lead in terms of the right ‘food’ behaviours.  Just recently several major chains have ditched ‘best before’ labels on fresh produce to discourage waste and made strides to offer ‘wonky’ food items.  Certainly a step in the right direction.

Again, for any food waste that’s unavoidable, appropriate steps should be made to separate it and discard into appropriate bins for recycling into new resources.

Start your food waste conversation today

As we mark this year’s Scotland’s Climate Week, it’s an ideal time to start having climate conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues to help shift the dial.  There’s a raft of resources available to help get you started including the Scottish Government’s Climate Conversation Pack.

By recycling your food waste either as a business or as an individual, you’ll become part of the solution and join Scotland in making a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions. 

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