Cristina Ortega is an environmental consultant at Groundsure. In this post, Cristina discusses food waste and landfill sites. If you have any questions or comments about this article, you can contact the residential consultancy team by email or by calling us on 08444 159 000.
There are many reasons why it's important to recycle as much as possible. With the increasing human population, the needs of the people also increase, however, we have reached a point where we live beyond our means. Every day we make choices in our lives that can affect the environment. As an example, we can take a look at the amount of waste we create every year and its consequences.
Statistics show that 15 million tonnes of food and drink were disposed of in the food chain from consumer to waste facilities in the UK between 2011 and 2012. The highest proportion of this (7 million tonnes) was waste from households. (1) Of the 7 million tonnes of household food and drink waste, 4.2 million tonnes was avoidable (food and drink thrown away that was, at some point prior to disposal, edible), 1.2 million tonnes was possibly avoidable (food and drink that some people eat and others do not or that can be eaten when food is prepared in one way but not in another) and just 1.8 million tonnes was unavoidable (elements not suitable for consumption). (1)
I know, sometimes it is difficult to think about quantities per year, so let me give you an example of the amount of waste at different points in the year. For example, it has been estimated that 18,000 tons of pumpkin squash is thrown away straight into the bin every Halloween, which is the equivalent to the weight of 1,500 double decker buses. (2). Additionally, only last year it was estimated that British households will throw away the equivalent of 4.2 million dinners on Christmas Day. (3)
You might be thinking already that the solution to this is recycling. It is possible that you consider yourself a person who recycles properly, but what about the activities related to food production that you do not see during the process? Overall, the UK throws away at least £10 billion worth of edible food each year and 80 million food and drinks cans end up in landfill every day. (4) Landfills are particularly harmful to the environment and, amongst other issues produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (5) In general, wasting food and drink is a waste of money. It is also an excessive waste of the energy and natural resources which go into the production, storage, preparation, packaging and transportation of that food. It has been estimated that if we stop throwing good food away, we could save the equivalent carbon emissions as taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads. (6)
Due to the reasons stated above, the issue of food waste has been taken very seriously in recent years. Reducing food waste has enormous potential for reducing the resources we use to produce the food we eat. The UK has created a prevention programme to help people and organisations make the most of opportunities to save money by reducing waste. (5) The aims are to stop sending food waste to incineration plants or landfill, to try to recycle responsibly and to reduce the negative impact on the environment
The whole production process matters, reducing food waste can easily start changing our behaviour at home. General tips include:
- Check what you already have at home before you shop
- Plan your meals with the ‘use-by’ date in mind
- Use leftovers
- Buy free packaged food
- Re-use packaging
- Feed your garden with your organic waste. (7)
However, in order to see an improvement, this is not a problem that should be focused only on household. There are a large number of businesses that have been created as a model on how to be zero-waste sustainable. One example is the UK's first permanent zero-waste restaurant in Brighton. Silo was created in 2014 to innovate the food industry by demonstrating respect for the environment.
- The restaurant is made from recycled materials
- Plates are formed from plastic bags
- Tables are made from industrial floor tiles
- Jam jars are re-used as glasses
- All products are delivered in re-usable containers
- All the food that is not consumed by the customer is fed into an aerobic digester, which can generate up to 60kg of compost in 24 hours. (8)
People should be aware of the importance of reducing food waste and how to get involved. It is not only an ethical problem, the waste of food has huge cost implications and there are also environmental concerns associated with increasing levels of gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfills. Are you ready for the change?
Being aware if your property has been built in close proximity to a landfill is something to be considered as part of the transaction of your property. Landfill sites can potentially pose a contaminative risk as they can produce gas and leachate which can move through soils, service conduits and some types of rock strata. Furthermore, if a landfill is located directly beneath a property, structural and subsidence problems can become apparent if such issues were not taken into consideration during site design and construction. Environmental data within Groundsure reports provide information held by the Environment Agency regarding landfill sites around the UK. More information about which data is covered within our reports can be found by visiting https://www.groundsure.com/search-reports/.
- Digest of Waste and Resource Statistics – 2015 Edition. Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482255/Digest_of_waste_England_-_finalv3.pdf
- Save our pumpkins: UK wastes 18,000 tons of food while carving Halloween jack o'lanterns. Article made by Tom Bawden. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/save-our-pumpkins-uk-wastes-18000-tons-of-food-while-carving-halloween-jack-olanterns-9820896.html
- The Great Christmas Dinner waste! By Anucyia Victor for Mailonline. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-2874470/Britons-throw-awqy-64-MILLION-food-Christmas-Day-t-finish-s-plates.html
- Recycling Facts. Available at http://www.recyclingbins.co.uk/recycling-facts/
- 2010 to 2015 government policy: waste and recycling. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-waste-and-recycling/2010-to-2015-government-policy-waste-and-recycling
- Get Involved in Reducing Food Waste. Love Food Hate Waste. Available at: https://www.kcsc.org.uk/sites/kcsc.org.uk/files/documents/network_pages/Getting%20involved%20in%20reducing%20food%20waste.pdf
- Top Tips on Reducing Food Waste. Available at: http://www.thinkeatsave.org/index.php/top-tips-on-reducing-food-waste
- Silo website. Available at http://www.silobrighton.com