Donal Hickey: It’s time to tackle food waste

AS the seasonal shopping splash-out gathers pace we can be certain of one thing: A sizeable amount of food will be thrown out post-Christmas, writes Donal Hickey.

Donal Hickey: It’s time to tackle food waste

STACKED trollies leaving supermarkets give the impression that the shops will not open for days after December 25, but many will again open on December 26 and you’ll hear some cash registers humming even on Christmas Day.

We produce 1m tonnes of food waste in Ireland annually. Of that, 200,000 tonnes comes from homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Around 60% of

domestic food waste, from plate scrapings and leftovers for example, is avoidable.

To prevent such waste, the best advice is to make a meal plan and a shopping list: The idea is to stop over-buying and to use up food before it goes bad. There’s some chance such advice will be heeded in the more austere month of January, but the sentiment is not in keeping with the ‘give it a lash’ spirit of Christmas.

It can be difficult to change the habits of adults and, perhaps, the best hopes are in young people who are already giving a lead on climate-change action.

Reducing food waste is one of the most effective actions we can take to address climate change, says the EPA, which has just published a Junior Cert resource pack for home economics teachers to engage students on food-waste prevention.

The pack, also available online, supports the new Junior Cycle curriculum and is available to all post-primary schools.

“It is clear that we need to change how we manage our food from shopping to storage to cooking,” said Laura Burke, EPA director general. “The participation of teachers in the development of this resource ensures it is of a high standard and relevant to the curriculum.”

The pack has a number of practical steps, including the planning of meals, making shopping lists, cooking and using proper storage methods, that students can apply in their lives. Food waste costs the average household around €700 per year and contributes significantly to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government’s target is to halve the cost of food waste to households by 2030.

While some of this waste is composted or used to make biogas and animal food, much of it ends up in landfill or is incinerated. Of the food thrown out, the EPA tells us 50% is made up of salads, 25% fruit and vegetables and 20% bread, with the remainder being meat, fish and dairy products.

With so much hunger in the world, there’s a stark irony in the UN statistic that a third of all food produced each year globally is wasted.

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