/ Food & Drink, Sustainability

Do you have a food waste bin?

Food waste can cause just as much damage to the planet as plastic waste, but not everyone has, or can have, a food waste bin. Is yours going straight to landfill?

Keeping on with the latest Which? Magazine’s very sustainable theme, last week we published three food waste facts everyone needs to know.

See what’s new in July’s Which? Magazine

I didn’t realise that of the 10.2m tonnes of food wasted in the UK, 7.1m of that figure comes from households, and a concerning 5m tonnes of it is actually edible.

I’ve shared a little anecdote on some of our recycling stories lately, including reverse vending machines most recently, so you’ll have to forgive me for indulging another – but I had a food bin for a while, or at least, I thought I did.

For some months, my block of flats had a council-provided food waste bin in the corner down in the bin room. I took my own mini food waste bin with me when I moved, so had been filling that up with a compostable bag before taking it downstairs.

But the communal food bin wasn’t getting taken away. After a while, it became full and, horribly, full of mice (or maybe rats, I didn’t hang about long after opening the lid to decide which).

It turned out that the food bin had been delivered by the council by mistake, and it was now refusing to remove it. Unfortunately my local authority doesn’t provide a food waste collection.

I’m pleased to say it was eventually removed and its unexpected tenants moved on, but now my food waste is ending up in with the general rubbish, which is definitely not ideal.

How much food do you throw away?

I wasn’t surprised to see bread on the list of items we throw away the most. Collectively, we throw away 20m slices of it every day.

I’m well aware that I’m disposing of too much of it after failing to get through a loaf most weeks – it’s something I’m making an effort to do something about, including freezing it when I know I’m not going to use it.

I wonder if refill stations, such as the ones currently on trial at Waitrose, could be a solution to things like this. Although we know that this could come with a host of hygiene-related concerns from your comments.

Do you think you’re throwing away too much food? And does your council currently provide a food waste collection service? Do you have a food bin at home? I’d be interested to see if anyone’s in a similar situation to me.

Heather says:
25 January 2021

We don’t have food waste collection in Cornwall. I don’t have food waste, we use up the next day. Veg peelings etc goes on the compost heap.

Heather – It’s good to have a compost heap, and in the absence of a food waste collection service it is useful for those who have a garden and space for one.

When we bought our present house there was already a compost bin with a quantity of decomposing material in it but the bin was not in the most suitable location and there were a lot of things in the bin that had not even started to rot down – especially eggshells and some cardboard waste. We started afresh with a new bin in a better location and it is now working satisfactorily, but we don’t use it for food waste, just garden vegetation waste [excluding grass cuttings].

I expect Cornwall will get round to food waste collections in due course. It requires a fair bit of infrastructure to get started and is most efficient in heavily built-up areas.

Most food can go onto a compost heap except cooked food (that would attract rats) and I would personally avoid other foodstuffs like meat, fish, cheese. My food waste would add little to the heap so mine is mainly garden “waste”. Best mix soft stuff like grass with more carbony materials like hedge clippings and shredded cardboard. It is important to shred if you want quicker compost and I use my rotary mower to do this. Even so it takes at least a year in my experience to get useful compost – but very useful it is to condition my clay soil.

The advice to turn the heap regularly is good to revitalise the decomposition. But it is hard work. I would produce better compost if I was not so lazy

Our local authority (North East Lincolnshire) does not offer a food waste collection service that I know of. In fact they offer fewer recycling services now than when the scheme first started.
However, I try to waste as little as possible and, of any leftover food, anything suitable goes to our ex farm hens, or to our ponies, or to the small herd of red deer next door who will eat almost anything!

I live in Ashford, Kent and we have had food waste bins which are collected weekly. We’ve had them for quite a few years. I don’t believe in wasting food and try my utmost to buy just enough for the week, so I don’t throw away much food at all. Lockdown (and lack of money for the first few months) really changed how much food I buy. Most of the food waste is peelings, cores, stalks, etc. We try to compost all that we can. We don’t eat much bread (I freeze a large wholemeal loaf and we just defrost a couple of slices as and when we need it). I like to think that I’ve got food shopping to minimise waste down to a fine art, and it is something that I will continue beyond lockdown.