Is it time to stop talking about food waste?

Food waste

Founder of Sizzle, Trewin Restorick, discusses the “hidden” 30% of the total amount of food discarded annually and asks if now is the time to stop talking about food waste.

Every year about 2.8 million tonnes of inedible food is chucked away by UK households and businesses all needing to be dealt with by the waste industry. This is the “hidden” 30% of the total amount of food discarded annually, broadly labelled as food waste and not discussed in any depth as part of the zero-waste conversation.

Is it now time to shine a spotlight on this material highlighting the potential value it holds?

What could be the impact of a concerted, compelling and engaging campaign highlighting that this “food waste” could be turned by households and businesses into a valuable material helping to fight climate change, save money and enhance the quality of soil?

Is it possible to turn the mucky world of composting and wormeries into the daily routine of environmentally and cost-conscious households? Is it possible to design a sleek new kitchen composter that is within the budgets of most households, works effectively and avoids the perils of fruit fly invasions and bad smells?

Can we bring the hidden wonders of worms into the open, stimulating the understanding of how these amazing creatures can turn food waste into a soil enhancer and mulch?

Is it now time to shine a spotlight on this material highlighting the potential value it holds?

These are just some of the questions that a new coalition of organisations is posing in a potential new regional trial campaign, which is being developed with the backing of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

The starting point for the trial has been an investigation exploring how to protect peatlands by finding sustainable alternatives to peat. This revealed that many gardeners are using peat as a soil enhancer or mulch for which alternatives such as derivatives from garden and food waste could be used. A 2021 RHS survey revealed that boosting home composting would create a significant amount of material that could fill the peat replacement gap.

There is much that could be achieved by shifting the way that households and businesses treat unavoidable food waste, but significant barriers exist. Legislative blocks are making it difficult to use waste derivatives as a peat replacement, there are technical issues to overcome particularly for certain plant types, there is a need for greater collaboration across sectors and there needs to be a way to reduce waste contamination, particularly from biodegradable plastics.

The proposed trial will tackle these questions. Following the principles of the waste hierarchy it will seek to:

  1. Cut demand for peat by promoting composting as a soil enhancer and mulch replacement.
  2. Reduce the inappropriate use of peat and build a better understanding of alternatives.
  3. Investigate the role that green and food waste derivatives can play to cut the use of peat.
  4. Boost collaboration and knowledge sharing.
  5. Create more informed decision-making through closer engagement with legislators.

Results from the trial will be independently measured and openly shared.  

If successful, results could have a range of environmental and financial benefits. Peatlands are hugely important carbon sinks and their protection is fundamentally important as part of the transition to net zero.

Food waste is expensive for waste management companies, reducing the amount of this material they must handle and potentially increasing the value of what is collected will make a difference. For households, creating their own compost will save money on increasingly expensive garden centre products.

Further details of the proposed trial can be found here If you are interested in getting involved, you can email to find out more.

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