As the festive season approaches, we begin purchasing food for Christmas, Boxing Day and over New Years. As family congregate together, food is normally bought in excess. But a lot of the time, leftover food is normally wasted.
The facts are shocking. On average, every Christmas the UK wastes almost 270,000 tons of food. Included in this is 2 millions turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 5 million Christmas puddings. As a country, our food wastage is appalling. Not only are these animals being killed only to be put in the bin, but the food that is wasted could be given to people that are struggling to eat. So why do we have such a bad relationship with food waste?
Those dates written on your food items are a big help. The Food standards agency completed a survey and found that 1 in 5 people in the UK believe that eating a food past its best before is bad for you. Best before dates and expiry dates may seem the same but they are not. An expiry date means that you must not consume the food after the date shown as you’ll probably become ill due to the ingredients ‘going off’. But a best before date suggests that the food won’t be perfect after the date but you can still eat it.
However, specifically at Christmas, there are people that will waste food even before it’s best before date because of various reasons, such as not having enough fridge space or cooking too much and having leftovers.
There are so many ways to combat food waste:
- Instead of binning that leftover Christmas grub, save it for Boxing Day or freeze it for another day.
- There are many charities that run soup kitchens, who are desperate for food donations. Even if you made a soup from leftover vegetables and donated it.
- Only buy enough food for the amount of people you are expecting.
- Buying frozen food is a great way to reduce food waste as it can be kept frozen for a fairly long period, so you don’t have to use it by the Christmas period.
- There are many dishes which are ideal for using up leftovers. You can put almost any leftovers in curries and casseroles and it’ll still be delicious.
- If you need to dispose of vegetable trimmings, invest in a compost bin (they can also be made very easily) and use that. You can then reuse the compost for your garden.
Another thing to think about is the packaging we are buying our food in. Over 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is used every Christmas just for turkeys. So when you can, buy your produce loose. Use reusable bags to buy your loose potatoes and carrots. Many farm shops offer loose vegetables where you can weigh your produce in the reusable bags you brought with you. But if it’s easier for you to shop at supermarkets, many companies like Lidl offer loose vegetables, to make it easier for you to only buy what you need and to also cut back on plastic waste too.
To reduce plastic waste when buying your foods and drinks over Christmas, you can also avoid plastic water bottles, which are now the third most common disposable item found in our oceans, 594,000 tonnes in fact, narrowly followed by plastic bottle caps. Instead, consider carrying around a reusable bottle that is able to be refilled, which in turn is better for the environment. You can use apps such as Refill or Tap that show you where you can refill your water bottle when you’re out and about, such as Tap and refill.
The morning after a few Christmas drinks it can be tempting to have a nice warm coffee to energise you for the day but did you know that coffee pods are a huge environmental hazard? Worldwide, it is estimated that we use 20 billion coffee pods, many of which end up in landfill and can take up to 500 years to decompose. But there are alternatives! You can purchase refillable capsules and compostable coffee pods, which are much more eco friendly, without costing the earth. Or you could always have a takeaway coffee, but remember to use a reusable cup or travel mug, many retailers often provide incentives if you do.
Lastly, after a long Christmas of cooking, many turn to a cheap and easy oven pizza, for a quick meal. Yet the packaging is forced to be thrown away or incinerated, as the pizza bases are made from polystyrene which is unable to be recycled, and more often than not the cardboard boxes will be contaminated with grease. Always check if the pizza box has a clear film window, which can sometimes be removed from the cardboard and be recycled, if it is not removed the whole box can end up in landfill.
Unfortunately, there is no one-solution-fits-all, but we can certainly make a difference, so what better gift to our earth this Christmas than to limit our plastic pollution and take a eco friendly step forward.
By Helen Hunt and Isabel Astill