“So what” if you scraped last night’s half-eaten lasagne into the bin? “Who cares” if there’s a bag of limp salad languishing at the bottom of your fridge as you read this? It’s only a bit of mildewy rocket, right?
Even food scraps that can’t be eaten can potentially be reused – or at least disposed of correctly. So, if you’re wondering how to recycle food waste. We’ve got the answers!
The Problem With Food Waste
The reasons for food waste vary, but they all have implications for the environment and the economy. Not to mention the issue of people going hungry whilst perfectly edible food gets thrown in the bin in the next street.
When food rots down in landfill it produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is a bigger contributor to global warming than CO2.
The UK sends 18 million tonnes of food to landfill. A third of this comes from households. But what’s really scandalous is the thousands of tonnes of edible food we carelessly discard.
The good news is, making use of food that you were thinking about chucking isn’t as disgusting as it sounds.
What to Do With Food Waste: Replace Everyday Household Essentials With DIY Foodie Alternatives!
You don’t need access to a chemist’s lab to whip up your own cleaning and beauty products. (Although the ingredients list on your shop bought products might read like it). In fact, you’ve probably got everything you need to get started in your own cupboards at home.
Steep orange or lemon peels in vinegar, cover and leave in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks. Strain, pour into a spray bottle and you’ve got yourself an all purpose cleaner.
Add a cut lemon to a bowl of water and heat in the microwave for three minutes. Use this warm lemony liquid to cut through food burnt on the bottom of pots and pans, making it easier to wipe away.
Mix used coffee grounds with coconut oil to make a natural body scrub.
Beetroot doubles up as a great lip tint. Just peel, then blend or grate before straining the juice and mixing it with coconut oil. Use the leftover pulp to make beetroot fritters. It’s a great way to recycle food waste and save your pennies.
Josephine Fairley, author of The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, has even found a use for leftover beer.
“Beer, especially flat beer – makes a terrific setting lotion for the hair. The sugar and protein combine to thicken hair and give it body. (You won’t smell like an old pub, the smell disappears as soon as your hair dries.)”. As a top tip, choose organic to avoid the hair-dulling additives added to commercial beers.
Use Council Food Waste Collection Schemes
Many UK councils have introduced schemes to help shrink the nation’s enormous food waste footprint.
Use RecycleNow’s Recycling Locator to find out what your local authority collects. It’s worth reading this carefully as some councils accept meat, bones and dairy while others don’t.
How to Use a Food Waste Caddy
Line your kitchen caddy with newspaper or use compostable food bags provided by your local council. This helps to prevent food sticking to the bin and eases cleaning. Place it out of the sun and keep the lid shut to keep the pests and smells at bay.
It’s also worth keeping a larger caddy in the garden to collect each bag as it fills. Then put the whole lot out on collection day.
If your council hasn’t caught onto food waste collections, let them know you won’t stop pestering them until they do.
In the meantime, you could follow in the footsteps of London-based Eco Life Choices. This eco-savvy blogger freezes her scraps and donates them to a local community garden.
What Happens to Our Food Waste?
Wondering what councils are doing with your leftover pizza crusts?
Some scraps are mixed with garden waste and returned to the borough’s parks and green spaces as fertiliser. This is known as in-vessel composting.
Others are transformed into biogas to power homes, offices and more. Two tea bags can produce enough electricity to charge an iPhone. This very cool process is called anaerobic digestion.
On the subject of teabags you might want to swap to Clipper, Pukka Teas or loose leaf. Many traditional tea bags aren’t suitable for food waste collections as they contain plastic. Oh – and this one’s a no brainer – remember to leave the packaging out of the food caddy!
How to Recycle Food Waste in the Kitchen
Think before you bin it.
Stale bread is only a blitz away from becoming bread crumbs on a pasta bake or crunchy croutons in a soup.
Save the liquid from a drained can of chickpeas. This liquid is called aquafaba and it makes a great vegan egg replacer.
Drizzle vegetable peelings with salt and oil and bake for a healthy snack. Yes, it requires more effort than reaching for the crisps. But the satisfaction of cooking something yourself is worth it.
Need more recipe inspiration? Carrot top pesto and our summer bread pudding are just two of the tasty treats you can make from grub you might have thrown away. You can even brew your own beer made from bread!
Remember, the freezer is your friend. Veggie scraps and stalks can be frozen for stock or smoothies. Ice cube trays can be filled with surplus herbs and olive oil. Most scraps can be pickled, fermented or blitzed into sauces, soups, or stews.
Become Compost Curious
Why feed your bin your scraps when you could feed it to your plants instead? If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you could buy or build a compost bin. (Search Get Composting for discounted bins in your area.)
Making your own compost reduces emission and nourishes your garden. It also means you can forgo shop-bought soil and chemical fertilisers.
The key to a rich nutritious compost is getting the balance right between greens and browns.
Veg peelings, plant prunings and grass cuttings constitute greens. Cardboard egg boxes, scrunched up paper and fallen leaves constitute browns.
The greens bring the moisture and nitrogen. While the browns provide fibre, carbon and air pockets to help the decomposition process along.
Remember to leave meat and dairy products out of your home compost. Perhaps you know a four-legged friend who’d be happy to gnaw on leftover bone?
Egg-shell smoothies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But newly planted veg love the calcium-rich shells.
If you live in an apartment with limited – or no – access to outside space, don’t feel left out. Consider investing in an indoor wormery. This sleek stainless steel number from Original Organics is great.
We think a wasteful kitchen is much more gross than a kitchen with a wormery, don’t you?
Grow Your Own Vegetable Patch From Food Scraps
Now you’ve got a rich supply of compost to use up, save yourself a trip to the veg aisle and get green-fingered at home.
Garlic cloves, spring onions and leeks can be cultivated easily. Submerge the root ends in water until they start sprouting, then plant them into the ground or pots.
If you’ve got the space (and patience), why not grow an avocado tree? Place an avocado stone in water until it sprouts before transferring to soil.
Seeds from red peppers and tomatoes can be planted straight into the earth.
And those alien-looking potatoes you’re about to chuck? Cut them into two inch pieces before letting them dry out for a couple of days. Then plant them in the ground. You can also grow potatoes in a bag if you’re short on outside space.
How to Recycle Food Waste the Smart Way
We bet even the most conscious consumer isn’t immune from the temptation of a supermarket offer. Whether it’s buying more than you can eat or cooking more than you can stomach, it’s now easier than ever to offload surplus food.
Apps such as OLIO allow users to share the contents of their cupboards with neighbours. It’s a great way to fight waste and you might even make some new friends in the process.
In the future, smart-phone linked sensors could also help us detect spoiled food. All without the need to rely on (often inaccurate) best before dates.
One in three of us is throwing away food because of the use-by date. But 60 per cent (4.2 million tonnes) of the £12.5 billion-worth of food thrown out each year is safe to eat. So bring on the tech solutions.
Being Part of the Food Waste Solution
There’s really no excuse for throwing so much food in the bin. It’s in us all to learn how to recycle food waste.