The way we deal with food in the UK is having an impact that’s being felt right around the world.
We live in a global community where what we do affects people in many other countries. So saving food really is everybody’s responsibility, and there are lots of small things we can all do every day to make a pretty big difference.
Food miles and miles
Keeping Britain fed is big business. From the veg fields of Norfolk to the air freight terminal at Heathrow, it’s complex and interconnected. Chances are the green beans on your plate could be from Kenya and your grapes have been flown here from Greece or Egypt. The whole process of growing, making, distributing, storing and cooking our food all uses a lot of energy, fuel and water.
Seeing beyond the bin
Going from field to fork is only part of the story: it accounts for just a fraction of your food’s impacts. What happens after left-over food leaves your plate is just as important.
It’s tempting to think of our food waste as organic, the kind that decomposes back into the soil. If you compost peelings, eggshells and apple cores to enrich your garden – and eat everything else that can be eaten – then that’s a great start.
But much of our food waste doesn’t end up that way. In the UK, we discard a total of almost one million tonnes of milk, bread and potatoes every year – that’s a billion kilos. Most of that goes straight down the sink, or to your local landfill. And our landfills are slowly filling up with rotting food, where it can take many years to degrade completely.
Keeping food out of landfill not only conserves limited landfill space, but also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because in landfills, organic materials, like food scraps are broken down by bacteria to produce methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and it has a warming potential of 21 times that of carbon dioxide. As we try to combat global climate change, it’s going to be a huge help if we can reduce methane emissions – and saving food will play an important part in that.
Full of hot air
So what’s the really big picture? Stand back and you’ll see. Keeping our food out of the bin will help slash our production of dangerous greenhouse gases – the gases that are causing our planet to heat up.
Here in the UK, if we all work together to use all of our good food, rather than throwing much of it away, we estimate it will save over 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. It’s not easy to imagine an invisible gas, so just imagine the effect of taking 1 in every 4 cars off the road each and every day. A more stable climate and less animal extinction in our lifetime… Saving food means you’ll be making a contribution to a better legacy for generations to come.