24 January 2010

Food waste collection, thrifty shopping and 10:10

Southwark Labour are committed to improving recycling rates should we win control of the council in May. Recycling has suffered years of neglect under the Lib Dems and Tories culminating in Southwark being rated the 6th worst council in the country for recycling. 2010 is the year for change!

One of the things that Labour could do to boost recycling would be to collect food waste. Food waste accounts for about 40% of household waste and, at the moment, unless you compost at home, it’s just ending up in landfill where it will give off methane as it rots. Sadly the Lib Dems and Tories have ruled out even considering the introduction of food waste collection until at least 2014.

Southwark Labour’s plans are backed up by plans announced this week by Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Environment Secretary. He revealed that a Labour Government would introduce a ban on food waste ending up in landfill – great news. Councils will have to collect food waste and use it for composting or generating energy. The ban would likely come into force in two years and would apply to businesses, the public sector and homes. The policy is in response to a survey of 4000 households which revealed that 78% of people supported separate food waste collection. From speaking to residents in Peckham Rye, it would certainly be a popular initiative here.

There is of course another side to what is a great policy. Britain throws away 8.3 million tonnes of food each year, costing families with children around £680 each year. Composting food waste still generates carbon dioxide – although there are ways to avoid this by the use of some modern composters. Really, alongside food waste collections, we need to promote more thrifty and sensible shopping policies, plan meals and eat up leftovers. This way, the only food waste we would generate would be a few peelings.

On average, each person in the UK is responsible for about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. So, if like me, you have signed up to the 10:10 campaign that means you need to cut your emissions by about 1.4 tonnes this year.

Global food production is a huge source of GHGs. Yes ‘food miles’ and packaging contribute to this but the main source of emissions is from livestock farming and the heavy use of fertilizers. The best way to reduce your food-related emissions is to reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products and avoid processed food and ready meals. However, if veganism doesn’t appeal, by just buying food more carefully, so you only buy what you’ll actually eat and by not throwing away food, you could reduce your GHG emissions by 0.2 tonnes.

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