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What a waste
by Asa Butcher
2008-07-23 09:11:26
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Earlier this week I was in generous mood so my daughter received a Kinder Egg. I'm sure you all know that a Kinder Egg has a chocolate shell and inside is a toy, but for such a little item there is a lot of packaging. A foil wrapper, a plastic "yolk", one paper with safety warnings, another with toy assembly instructions, a sticker sheet and the toy - it was quite a pile I deposited into the bin, although none of the chocolate was wasted.

I was stunned by the small fistful of rubbish clenched in my fist and it reminded me of the article entitled "Environmental conscience" I wrote in observance of Earth Day earlier this. I broached the subject of caring for the environment by saying that we should do it because it is the right thing to do, not because the planet is suffering. We should each be doing all we can to limit our impact on our environment and there are a number of simple solutions available to us all.

The Kinder Egg was the original inspiration for this article but then a further, far stronger, influence hit me after reading a BBC headline "Are 1.3m yogurts really binned a day?" How can you ignore an article with that headline? According to the article, Wrap, the company that commissioned the research, collected rubbish on the usual collection day from 2,138 participating households in nine areas in England and Wales over the course of five weeks and physically went through it all.

WastesWork, the company employed to sort the rubbish, divided the refuse into food and non-food waste - the latter was ignored. Any unrecognisable food was classified as "composite gunge" and the rest was carefully catalogued, such as the flavour and the brand. The results of Wrap's research may actually cause you to lose your appetite, with the UK throwing away 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, which is almost a third of everything purchased.

If weight measures mean little to you, then how does the number £10.2 billion sound because that is the total cost of the food thrown away? This equates to every household annually throwing away £420, while homes with children see the number escalate to £610 a year - these are frightening numbers. When you consider that this is only representative of the UK's waste - a country that has the 22nd largest population in the world - you become speechless at the thought that there are 21 more countries producing even more refuse waste, plus people are actually dying from starvation.

When I was a teenager I used to work for a British supermarket chain and the amount of food that was thrown away at the end of each week could feed a few families. Sell-by dates expired, products were broken, one broken egg meant the disposal of the whole carton and dozens of other criteria could result in food being binned. Another job was at a vegetable packing company and again the produce that would be disposed of in the recycling skip was immense.

Here in Helsinki I am recycling more thanks to the ease at which it can be done. Our apartment complex has bins for general refuse, cardboard, paper, glass and bio waste, although bizarrely no plastic, and it is easy to use. We have a bio bin under our sink and all waste food is scraped into that and the job of taking it to the main bio wheelie bin makes me physically sick… I'm no fan of "composite gunge"!

However, as much as I hate the job it does make me feel pro-active and doing my part. I may regularly mock my wife's love of wrapping the tiniest amount of food in clingfilm, but it does cut down on our food wastage, and even I am doing my part by eating the ends of the loaf - something I have never been fond of. As one British supermarket slogan says, "Every little helps" and I believe that is true when it comes to the wastage.

* * * * * *

In the UK we throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, roughly a third of everything we buy. Most of this avoidable and could have been eaten if only we had planned, stored and managed it better. Less than a fifth is truly unavoidable – things like bones, cores and peelings.

Nearly one quarter of the 4.1 million tonnes of avoidable food waste is thrown away whole, untouched or unopened. Of this, at least 340,000 tonnes is still in date when thrown away. A further 1.2 million tonnes is simply left on our plates. This all adds up to a story of staggering wastefulness. For example every day we throw away:

·         5.1 million whole potatoes
·         4.4 million whole apples
·         2.8 million whole tomatoes
·         7 million whole slices of bread
·         1.3 million unopened yoghurts and yoghurt drinks
·         1.2 million sausages
·         1 million slices of ham
·         0.7 million whole eggs
·         0.7 million whole bars of chocolate and unwrapped sweets
·         0.3 million unopened meat-based ready meals or takeaways
·         0.3 million unopened packets of crisps

Source: Wrap.org.uk

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Emanuel Paparella2008-07-23 11:01:00
A waste indeed. T.S. Eliot in his Wasteland identifies the root causes of the waste of food (while the majority of the world's population is undernourished) which remains a symptom of a deeper malaise: the spiritual wasteland of a brave new world deluding itself that it is "enlightened" and in control, but has in reality lost control of its own ultimate destiny.

JR2008-07-24 02:53:27
Hadn't thought yet of the kinder egg. Another crap that should just disappear of the market. Bad sugar and idiotic plastic collection habits for kids.

I dumpster dive in Espoo for food as a way to reduce my shopping bills and waste load on he environment and since the first time I got to see with my own eyes how much food in perfect conditions is thrown away every day. Truly heartbreaking actually.

Watch the movie 'Story of Stuff' here:


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