Reading the new research from Hotpoint this week about how as a society, the UK throws away £271.44 of edible food every year, per household – I completely and utterly lost my appetite. The study went on to speak about how over a third of brits carelessly admit they do not plan their meals ahead of shopping, resulting in over half buying food they already have, and this relaxed attitude sees one in five then throwing excess food away.
Food waste in the UK is a huge crisis, and as an ex-chef myself this is something that is very close to my heart. The industry as a whole is miles behind the rest of the world in terms of reducing our food waste which is causing a detrimental and irreversible effect on our environment.
This epidemic is finally starting to weigh on both the mind of the mainstream consumer and the larger industry as a whole, as we attempt to trim the waistline of the amount of food being wasted; Hotpoint documented that over 65% admit they worry about the amount they are wasting and a whopping 74% saying they personally feel responsible for the damaging and lasting impact on our environment – but the majority are still unsure what they can do about it.
The knowledge and awareness surrounding food sustainability has seen a minor increase across the last few years with consumers demanding the right to know and understand where their food is coming from, but the talking focal point into food waste as a whole has been swept under the carpet, with many outlets focusing on the removal and replacement of packaging but forgetting about a very important factor – the food itself.
Consumers deserve and need to be educated. Both large and small companies across the UK are implementing food waste strategies which need to be normalised.
“Food waste is an anathema to me, doing everything we can to reduce it seems so obvious – I can’t understand why it isn’t the norm” Pete Thompson, a third-generation fruit and vegetable grower comments and I strongly agree with.
Thompson continues by saying: “I am a huge believer in the philosophy that if we are to make the world a better place, we need to do it within the current socio-economic capitalist paradigm – by understanding that if we want to make a big enough difference, it has to be a concept people want to buy into, whether they believe in the sustainability values or not.”
The need for these creative innovators to blindly entice the UK market is the inspiration larger producers and customers need in order to recognise not only the value in what these companies are doing but also the huge importance of utilising our ability in reducing food waste in the UK.
Pete saw this gap and need in the market and created Cotchel, an apple juice brand made from Grade 2/3 fruit on his farm that he can’t sell, followed by Reliquumm, a London Dry Gin infused with the surplus apricots and plums that are deemed too ugly to sell.
Black Cow Vodka also adopts this alcoholic inclusion by using the by-product of cheese to create their whey-based vodka. This new lease of otherwise useless ingredients can also be seen reflected across restaurants and bars up and down the country.
Nine Lives, a bar in London created by Tom Soden, Emma Hutchison and Allan Gage reuses key ‘waste’ ingredients such as lemon skins for their oil and juice for cocktails and redistills the pith to produce essential oils for their liqueurs and hand soap before discarding the rest of the waste to compost and fertilise their own backyard herb garden.
Aidan Brooks who runs the pop-up supper club Eleven98 in Hackney also uses his food waste by gifting it to his next-door neighbours wormery, resulting in worm tea, that he uses as an organic fertiliser on his vegetable garden. “The sentiment of food waste going full circle, where food becomes the place for more food to grow is beautiful” this ultimate form of closing the loop is the passion behind Aidan’s business, “the more loops we can close, and encourage others to close by reducing, reusing and recycling – the longer we will have to enjoy this precious planet of ours” Aiden comments. And it’s not just the smaller companies that put sustainability at the heart of their businesses ethos, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall’s head chef Adam Banks’ adopts a complete ‘nose-to-tail’ and ‘root-to-tip’ approach in his cooking – using every edible part of the ingredient, be it plant or animal to ensure there is zero waste across his entire menu. Josh Eggleton from Pony and Trap has even gone one step further and created his own Micro Farm in order to nurture and control their produce and delivery service Riverford feed their dairy herd and staff with grade-out fruit and veg, but they stay clear of feeding their cows excess beetroot for fear of turning their milk pink.
Although there is some movement in creating a more economical environment for the base of our foodie philosophy and our understanding in how to utilise our ingredients to ensure minimal waste – it is only the start.