By Tobias Hudson
Food waste has become a huge problem. Walking through the streets of Glasgow, you can find piles of old food and waste littered on almost every street corner, food that could have been used to help feed the homeless or make a new meal.
When we think about food waste, the individual is not always seen as the issue. Surely it must be the restaurants and fast-food chains that pump out the most food, a packed lunch or meal deal could never equate to the same amount of waste. This thinking is what has led to a counter-intuitive catastrophe, with Government Scotland reporting that more than sixty percent of all Scottish food waste is produced by households. This costs Scotland £1 billion a year, an average of £470 per house. Something is clearly going wrong.
Glasgow has gone a long way to recognise waste problems in the commercial food industry, and thankfully there have been many initiatives put in place to help overcome the mounds of rubbish. Last year, Plate it Up was a project that saw venues all over Glasgow offering items on their menus that were labelled as “low waste.” This meant that the food was smaller in size and was made using produce that didn’t create any leftovers. The Junk Food Project goes one step further, taking unused food and making it into meals that are then sold at pop-up stores around the city. This creates a constant cycle of food production until there is no waste left. However, do any of these initiatives last beyond their sell-by date? Take a peek behind your local McDonalds or Wetherspoons at the dumping grounds and see for yourself. The worst part is that this isn’t even the bulk of where the issue lies.
Lunch is a quick meal that we sometimes skip but often generates the most waste. Bread, milk, cheese and apples rank amongst the top foods wasted every year reports River Cottage. It’s also an area where other waste can slowly build up without it being immediately apparent. Using products like cling film and tin foil might seem to be harmless, but multiplying that by the millions of people that rip off a sheet every day for single-use purposes, it can be easy to see how the problem accumulates. The Glasgow Times has even reported that food waste bins are set to be removed in the coming months. Time will only tell what its effects will be.
In theory, there should be less waste as items are bought to be eaten over a period of days, and not one-off purchases like in restaurants. But many individuals are still prone to over-shopping, meaning that food goes out of date. ‘Eyes bigger than the stomach’ is a common syndrome, with many outlets now recommending more frequent shopping trips for less food. Of course, this isn’t always possible for those that work long hours. There also exists a paradox in the production of fresh, local and organic produce. Organic food goes off quicker than its non-organic counterparts because of the lack of chemicals used to produce it. In growing crops that are better for the planet, it’s leading to another issue whereby it is more likely to go to waste.
It really isn’t a case of more initiatives and tools, as the internet offers so many new ways to cut down on waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Websites like Love Food Hate Waste are only a Google-search away, and offer ways to turn food that has reached its sell-by date into stir-frys and healthy alternatives. In fact, this article could list hundreds of sites, but the real action comes from the self. Discipline and a change in perspective are the only tools now needed. Too often the individual might believe that their actions alone have no real consequences on the planet because of how small-scale their impact seems. This can also be true of climate activism. It can seem scary to put faith in an army of unknown strangers to put in the effort, and it can feel that our efforts are fruitless. But we must start to learn that every cog is crucial to the machinery, and without it no progress can be made.
There are those who are recognising the problems and are looking beyond the paradoxes of thought. Glasgow itself has its own share of innovations. One product is Shona Forbes’ simple and ingenious invention, The Wrapper. A reusable package that can store anything fresh from sandwiches to carrot sticks, The Wrapper offers a new way to prepare and carry food when out and about without the need to use single-use products like sandwich bags.
Watch the video below to see how Shona came up with her invention, and the ways in which it is helping her reduce waste every day:
It’s comforting to know that there are many people working on a solution to this first-world problem that seems so abhorrent in the face of world hunger and international poverty. The Scottish Government has laid out a plan to reduce food waste by 33% in the next twenty years. Ambitious plans indeed, but there seems to be no other way to move forward than with brisk, striding steps. As individuals, we must do better to remember that there is power in numbers. By taking the first step ourselves, we can be an inspiration to those around us to make better use of the gift of choice that we have been granted. A gift that many don’t have, and a decision to better the choices we make in order to stop the senseless waste that litters the streets every single day.
To find out more about The Wrapper, visit this link: re-wrap-it.co.uk