Combatting food waste in Lewisham

Overflowing bin in Lewisham. Pic: Imogen Lodewyke

It may seem pretty trivial, but the leftovers you threw away last night have a much bigger impact than you may think.

And moves in Lewisham to boost recycling– this June they will be giving residents a kitchen caddy for food waste – have paved the way for a wider discussion on the scope of the problem.

For Anthony Buchan, Head of Programme for Resource London, an organisation set up in order to help the capital make a significant contribution to national food waste reduction targets, these changes are a great start.

Talking to Eastlondonlines, Buchan said: “We are delighted that the London Borough of Lewisham is rolling out this service to its residents. Food waste is dense and heavy, so when it gets put into the recycling rather than the rubbish, it can really improve recycling rates in the capital and can be transformed into compost or green energy”.

Food waste in the borough. Pic: Imogen Lodewyke

When food isn’t re-used or recycled properly, it is taken to landfill sites with other general waste. The process of layering general waste creates methane, which has a global warming potential of 21 times greater than carbon dioxide. While the introduction of food waste bins in Lewisham may seem like a small step, the process of separating food waste from recyclable materials has the potential to save billions of pounds.

However, while food waste bins are great for managing unavoidable food waste like eggshells and tea bags, the most valuable thing we can do is to actually eat all of the food that we buy according to experts.
Feedback, an environmental organisation that campaigns to end food waste at every level of the food system, highlights the importance of reducing food waste both environmentally and economically.

Feedback’s Communications Coordinator Christina O’Sullivan told Eastlondonlines: “Globally, at least one third of all food produced is wasted. This is a massive waste of money and natural resources.
“UK households waste £13bn worth of food every year, while the scale of waste at supermarket and farm level isn’t even known.

“If this food waste was prevented it would have the environmental benefit of taking one in four cars off the road”.

There are a number of ways that individuals can reduce food waste, including only buying the amount of food needed and using senses to determine whether food is out of date rather than sticking to use by labels.

Reducing food waste can also be delicious, using leftovers to make new meals, or even having them for lunch the next day will save money as well as wastage.

These thoughts were echoed by Richard Poskitt, Commercial Manager of ReFood, Europe’s leading specialist food waste and recycling provider. When discussing the issue with Eastlondonlines, Poskitt talked about the importance of adhering to the food waste – hierarchy, a system that favours redistribution and repurposing, before efforts are made to recycle.

Poskitt said: “Food is wasted in vast quantities and we need a mind shift.”

“The UK has the opportunity to be a true leader on reducing and eliminating food waste. Vision 2020, an initiative we co-founded, sets out the steps that can be taken to achieve that goal.”

“Councils, businesses and the wider public need to understand that sending food waste to landfill simply doesn’t make sense. Food waste can and should be treated as a resource.”

For Lewisham residents, at least they can do their bit with their waste. From June this year households in Lewisham will be provided with a kitchen caddy for food waste and a small food waste bin to be collected weekly, free of charge. Further changes include a switch to fortnightly collections of non – recyclable rubbish (black bins).

For more information see the council’s website here

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