What’s it all about?
National Stop Food Waste Week commences today and runs from 12th-19th June. We are leading a week-long campaign to highlight issues and raise awareness about food waste. Each day we will be sharing information and pointers to help people reduce food waste at work and at home.
“The campaign aims to stimulate action by people across Ireland to make real changes towards reducing our annual wastage of over one million tonnes of food”
Many of us are aware that we waste food but very few of us realise just how much. The environmental costs of food waste for Ireland are huge. But, when you think about the whole food cycle globally, they become absolutely massive.
In Ireland we are generating at least 1 million tonnes of food waste each year with the majority of this managed in Ireland. While some is anaerobically digested for energy recovery, composted or rendered for animal food, much of it still ends up in landfills. Anyone who has lived near or even smelled a landfill knows when food rots in the ground the gases and liquids given off are bad news. This is only part of the problem, there are a whole load of environmental impacts long before we the consumers dispose of our food waste.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) calculates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, directly contributing to food shortages, water stress, unnecessary biodiversity loss, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. This means that, after America and China, food waste is the 3rd largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions with 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year.
But what does this mean?
Well, 1.4 billion hectares of land, which is equivalent to 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area or 200 Irelands, is used to produce food that is then lost or wasted. Long before we even buy our food, there are a whole load of other environmental costs associated with getting food into our trolleys.
Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA said,
“It takes a lot of resources to put food on our tables. Growing, processing, transport and storage all use massive amounts of energy and water, along with packaging, fertilisers and machinery. All of this activity generates greenhouses gases which drive climate change, so it is critical that we value and carefully use the food we produce.
Globally, one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is lost or wasted. Ireland itself generates over one million tonnes of food waste every year, so there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.
Many of us would like to take action on climate change, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Reducing food waste contributes to lowering our carbon footprint, and we can achieve this through some surprisingly simple actions.”
Stop Food Waste is an EPA programme that works with householders, helping them to make the most of their food. We provide information and supports on all aspects of preventing food waste, from good planning and shopping practices through to correct storage and reuse options.
The four key steps we can take to Stop Food Waste are:
- Know your food waste: Make a list of what you throw out over the next week, this will give you a better understanding where your habits produce waste so you know what to target for improvement.
- Planning and Shopping: Smarter shopping ensures that you don’t waste hard-earned money on food that goes in the bin. Plan your meals (including lunches at work), check the cupboards and fridge before you go, and use a shopping list.
- Cooking and Storing: Store food properly to make the most of what you have bought to keep food fresher for longer. The Stop Food Waste ‘A-Z of Food’ contains tips and advice on how to store and cook various food types. Using leftovers for lunch not only helps reduce food waste, it will also save you money.
- Bin it better: Use the brown bin (or try home-composting) for the unavoidable food waste you do generate. A recent national study showed that almost 50% of household organic waste is still being disposed of in the “wrong bins”, i.e. recycling or black bin.
Food Waste at Work
Our top tips to reduce food waste in the workplace are:
- Have a sharing shelf in the canteen and one in the fridge and let everyone know that food left there is fair game.
- Events with catering often produce large amounts of food waste. Try a slight under-order; and share any leftovers with colleagues.
- Store unused food properly for future use, and don’t leave food forgotten in the fridge over the weekend.
EPA’s Odile Le Bolloch said:
“Because the food we buy is not just consumed at home, for Stop Food Waste week we are also encouraging businesses and employees to target food waste at work. To play your part in raising awareness, we are inviting businesses around Ireland to sign-up as supporters of Stop Food Waste week and receive posters; daily tips; and a chance to win free goodies and free Stop Food Waste workplace training.”
Download the #SFWWeek poster and pop it up in your office/canteen.
If you haven’t yet signed up to receive email updates for the week, it’s not too late. Sign up here.