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  • Emily Westlake

Becoming More Eco-friendly: Reduce: Part 2

Updated: Jul 6, 2021


This is the second part of my blog on how to reduce waste, in order to be more eco-friendly. You can read part 1 here: Becoming More Eco-friendly: Reduce: Part 1.


Reducing Food Waste

There are many ways to reduce food waste. One is to avoid buying more than you need, by doing meal plans and writing shopping lists. Also, some fruit and veg boxes focus on reducing waste, like Odd Box, which delivers odd and surplus fruit and veg straight from the farm (I haven't tried this, as it doesn't cover my area yet), and The Rotten Fruit Box, which delivers boxes of seasonal freeze-dried fruits, which would have otherwise been wasted.

Here are some more ideas:

  • The Olio app enables you to share food with people in your local area.

  • You can become an Olio Food Waste Hero, to collect food from supermarkets and restaurants to share with local people via the Olio app.

  • The Too Good to Go app tells you which restaurants and cafes have food left over at the end of the day - you can reserve a bag of food and pick it up at closing time.

  • Many towns and villages have a Community Fridge, where you can drop off leftover food, or pick up food to use yourself. These were set up to reduce food waste around the UK, and the main rule regarding picking up food from them, is to only take what you can use yourself. My local area - mid-Surrey - has a few Community fridges in Dorking and Leatherhead. They also deliver boxes of food to people in need who can't get to the collection point.

  • You can drop off in-date non-perishable food at your local Food Bank (many churches and supermarkets have a collection point for this), which make up food parcels for those in need (to receive an emergency food parcel people need to get referred, they can't just turn up). The Trussell Trust has set up many food banks around the UK, and there is also an Independent Food Aid Network.

Food Packaging

The best way to reduce waste is to re-think your purchasing decisions. Change things little by little - don't try to change everything at once. There are always going to be items you can't do without - don't worry about those for now, think about the ones you can change.

Chocolate

There are lots of yummy chocolate bars that are simply wrapped in foil and paper. These are the ones I'm trying to buy more of - instead of those wrapped in plastic. The paper/card outer goes straight in the recycling; then I collect the foil up until I can make a large ball of it, and either use it in making something, or put it in the recycling. I'll share more about what I do with my foil in a later blog.

Other foods

If there's a choice, I try to buy food items in tins, glass, or recyclable/reusable plastic. A lot of biscuits/crackers have paper/cardboard on the outside, and a plastic inner bag, which can't be recycled. You will gradually learn what packaging comes with each item you buy regularly, and then you can start to slowly make different choices. Usually, if something is liquid or fresh, it will have to have some kind of plastic or metallic liner. So, although a takeaway cup or pot might look like cardboard on the outside, if it has a shiny inside then it can't be recycled (as it has a protective plastic layer inside). The same is true for Tetrapack cartons (used for things like juice and alternative milks) and Pringles tubes - they are usually made of 3 materials: paper, plastic, and foil. Not many kerbside recycling places these - I'll tell you more about how to recycle them in a future blog. Plastic is not inherently bad - it's a very useful material. We just need to work harder on not buying single-use plastic items that will go in the bin right after we use them. If we're going to use something again and again, it's less damaging to the environment.


Food coverings/storage

As I have said before, you don't need to buy new stuff to become eco-friendly. Use up the cling film, foil, and plastic food bags you have in the cupboard. And then consider what you'd like to use instead. Often we already have other items that can be used for this purpose, e.g. paper bags, cotton bags, tea towels, kitchen roll, etc. There may be occasional things you still want to use cling film or foil for - that's fine, just reduce gradually, and see how you go.

"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly"

(this quote has been attributed to Anne-Marie Bonneau).


I got very excited when reusable silicone bowl covers became available a few years ago. They were pegged as eco-friendly, so I bought a couple of packs of them. They are very useful for covering bowls and plates in the fridge, and they help me to avoid using cling film (and other single-use plastic), but they're not much different from using plastic covers for food. Similar to plastic, silicone is not biodegradable or compostable, and is actually more durable than plastic - it will basically last forever. The benefit over plastic is that it can be heated to high temperatures, and won't discolour or lose its shape however many times you use it. So, yes, it will stop lots of single-use plastic from ending up in landfill, but in 50 years or so, when you've finished using it, it will probably end up in landfill, so it's not a complete solution.

Beeswax wraps have also become very popular in the last few years, as an alternative to clingfilm or foil. They are usually squares or rectangles of cotton, infused with bees wax. They can be used to wrap food like sandwiches, or to cover containers in the fridge, and the wax helps it stick together. They can then be washed and reused, and when they wear out (usually after a year) they can go in the compost bin. However, as you can only rinse them in cold or tepid water, it's not advisable to use them for things like cheese and meat. I made the mistake of using soap and very warm water once, and it ruined the beeswax coating!

My favourite thing to use for sandwiches, when going out (which doesn't happen much at the moment!), is a square pouch made from waterproof material, with a velcro fastening. I wrap my food in a piece of kitchen roll, and put it in the bag - it keeps it together and fresh until I'm ready to eat it. Here are a few of the items I use regularly:

My next blog post will be about reusing items to reduce waste.

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