Here in the UK we throw away approximately seven million tonnes of food every year. They calculate that about five million tonnes was food that could actually have been eaten. The vast majority of this waste comes from households. This has a cost both in monetary terms (around £14 billon) and in its effect on the environment, accounting for something in the region of 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Sobering figures at a time when more and more people are in food poverty, forced to use food banks and make decisions every week on whether to pay a vital household bill, or to eat.
According to the UK charity WRAP (the Water and Resources Action Programme) household waste in 2015 would fill 70,000 three-bedroom terraced houses.
However, we have reduced our food waste since 2007, saving local councils nearly £70 million in 2015 alone through lower landfill charges.
Each household throws away the equivalent of eight meals each week, costing almost £70 per month for an average family with children. The carbon generated by the production of this food is the equivalent of that produced by one in four cars on the road in the UK.
And, as every statistic is obliged to be compared to something the size of Wales, how about this: An area the size of Wales is required to grow all the food we waste annually.
Among the foods wasted in UK homes are:
- fresh potatoes (4.4 million of them)
- bread (1 million loaves at an average of 20 slices per loaf)
- milk (3.1 million glasses’ worth)
- 1.2 million whole tomatoes
- 1 million whole onions
- 2.2 million slices of ham
- chicken (the meat from 120 million of them)
- 0.7 million whole oranges
- 0.8 million whole apples
So, this weekend, in an attempt to do my bit for reducing food waste, I picked all the cooking apples from the tree in the garden, which had actually fallen over because of the weight of fruit on it. I didn’t weigh them, but they filled four of those large bag-for-life supermarket shopping bags. Some of the apples were so big you could barely get both hands around them.
I’m not much of a pie maker, so I’m in something of a quandary to know what to do with cooking apples. I took some to the local community shop for them to sell, but then I spotted a notice from the village pub in Kirk Ireton. the Barley Mow, saying they were having an apple-juicing day. They invited everyone to bring along their spare apples, together with either clean containers to take away fresh juice, or to donate it to the pub’s cider-making process.
Some of the apples I took were so big they wouldn’t fit into the pulping machine and had to be quartered. Once suitably mushed, they went into a wonderful old-fashioned apple-press, which produced pure juice with no artificial flavourings, colourings or additives.
And the result? Absolutely delicious. Didn’t need a drop of extra sweetening, despite being mostly cookers. Of course, without preservatives, there’s a limit to how long it will keep, even in the fridge, but you can always freeze it. And I look forward to trying a sample of the rest of it, once it’s become Barley Mow cider in due course.
This week’s Word of the Week is amanuensis, meaning a literary or artistic assistant, particularly one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts. It also refers to a person who has the authority to sign a document on another’s behalf. The word comes from the Latin servus a manu, ‘servant of the hand.’