The prevalence of avoidable food waste is not limited to any one community or country, nor any particular demographic – it’s a global issue, to which each and every one of us contributes, and the impact of which is felt the world over. We are all part of the problem, but also part of the solution!
The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? Households. Individuals. Consumers. 42% of food waste in the EU can be attributed to consumers. That’s a lot of bad choices. Choices to buy too much stuff. To stick a pizza in the oven rather than do something with those left overs. Choices not to learn to cook properly. To value convenience and de-value food.
With 20-40% of food produced on farms not actually fulfilling its destiny – being left to rot into the ground or on the trees upon which it was grown, rather than consumed by us humans, it raises real concerns about the sustainability and the impact of such a flawed system.
We are all conscious on some level of the amount of food we waste – edible or otherwise, within our own home, and aware that there is avoidable food waste generated by supermarkets and the wider, urban-based commercial, catering and hospitality sectors. But what about on the farms?
At retail level alone, it is estimated that over 400,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food go to waste each year. Meanwhile 4 million people in the UK are affected by food poverty and over 500,000 people are reliant on emergency food provision.
Food waste has a huge environmental impact: if we stopped wasting food in the UK it would be the CO2 equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. Because of this our first aim should be to minimize the amount of food being wasted as much as possible and progress is definitely being made here: from innovative packaging to more intelligent systems for predicting how certain items will sell.
FoodCycle’s activities are not limited to the volunteer hubs I have been documenting – the organisation also runs a cafe in Bromley by Bow, which I went to visit on a couple of occasions.
The cafe relies on gathering food that would otherwise be wasted from a variety of sources – including New Spitalfields Market, which is collected early on Saturday mornings.
Not being satisfied with the range of images I managed to capture during my first visit to Waitrose Islington, the management team kindly allowed me to come along a second time – to once again capture the handing over of ‘surplus’ food from Waitrose to the FoodCycle LSE volunteers.
On the same day as my visit to the Bloomsbury Hub I visited FoodCycle’s LSE Hub, which despite its name, is open to everyone and anyone. I met them at the Angel branch of Waitrose, where they collected ‘surplus’ food that would otherwise be thrown out.