Prevent supermarket food waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Be a waste conscious supermarket shopper and look out for the reduced items of food in supermarkets. It prevents them being thrown away.

For most of us when going into the local supermarket to restock fridge and cupboards the waste we are generating as a consumer is not normally the first thing on my mind – instead price and taste seem more important.

I must say that, even though waste reduction and management is much in my thoughts I have not thought of the reduced isle in the supermarket in this way before but I do now.

The reduction of food waste does, I know, really have to start at the beginning, namely at the producers and the middlemen, followed by the stores and then by the consumer, and that includes large consumers and small ones.

Reducing household waste matters and here are a few facts that will show you why it is important that we, as consumers, try to cut back on the amount that we put in our refuse bins:

  • Britain could run out of landfill space by 2018 unless we send less there in the first place (or of course we create more landfill space which is not an ideal long term solution).

  • £12 billion is spent each year in the UK on food and drink which then gets thrown away – this equates to around £600 on the annual shopping bill of an average family.

  • In weight, this wastage amounts to 7.2 million tonnes, of which around 4.35 millions tonnes was avoidable.

  • An estimated 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come about because of the production, transportation and storage of food and drink.

  • Household waste leads to as much as 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions each year.

  • 4.9 million tones of household related packaging created each year.

  • Only 33% of this packaging is recycled in the UK when around 73% is able to be recycled.

So you can see that waste is not a trivial issue – the figures speak for themselves. They do, however, represent a big opportunity for improvement though and both consumers and companies can contribute to reduction in waste being sent to landfill.

What can you do to reduce this waste mountain? Start in the supermarket itself and going through to cooking and rubbish, you can make some simple changes to your habits that will reduce the amount of waste you produce:

  1. Look out for the reduced items – food items that have reduced stickers on are probably close to their sell-by dates but they are 100% safe no matter what meat, fish, dairy or savory item it is.

  2. To prevent these items from ending up in the supermarket bins out back, why not see if you could use any of the produce in a meal that night. Failing that, check to see if there is anything that could be frozen and used at a later date. In fact most stuff can be frozen and if you freeze it immediately when you get home this will be safe for a while in the freezer.

  3. I would do a lot more of this if I didn’t have a tiny freezer compartment, and I have been promising myself to get a small upright freezer for ages by now. Alas, they are few and far between.

  4. Look at the labels to find out what parts of the packaging are recyclable and which are not – avoid products that are primarily packaged in materials that would have to be binned.

  5. When it comes to packaging materials consider reuse rather than recycling even. A tin can can be used for many things including as a pencil bin on your desk and glass jars have a multitude of uses, including as drinking glasses; they have in my house.

I all things consider reuse of packaging items and upcycling before you even try to fathom out as to whether or not those items are recyclable, and which they are, and whether or not your local authority has a recycling scheme for those products.

In addition to that we need to get back to the ways of old when bottles went back for reuse and the same could be done with glass jars (having a deposit of say 10pence on them might work) and reduce as much in the way of plastic packaging as possible.

Furthermore, being able to by products loose again should become the norm, as it once was, including milk. You brought your own little milk churn along and it was ladled into it by the half-pint, if I remember rightly. Beans, sugar, flour, and so many other things could be bought “loose” and the goods were either put into a paper bag or you brought your own container, like with the milk.

Refill stations for the like of dishwash soap, etc., should become the norm – some makers do have those but they are few and far between – and the old Neal's Yard Wholefood Store of the early 1980's in Soho in London could serve as a great example here.

The refill and loose sales model should be brought back and this would reduce packaging waste no end. In addition to that packaging, such as glass bottles and -jars, as said already, should be reused by going back to the manufacturers to be refilled and others packaging items should be designed in such a way that they have a second use with this use being identified to the user on the package. It is not rocket science now, is it?

© 2012