What a Waste

Birds at landfill site looking for food
Birds scavenge for scraps at landfill Photo: Press Association

Food prices are set to rise by up to 5% this year putting more pressure on hard-pressed families. Despite this, we are still throwing away unprecedented amounts of food.

A report out just last week said up to half the food we buy is wasted despite much of it being perfectly edible. In the Tonight programme on ITV at 7.30pm Jonathan Maitland asks how we stop the average British family throwing away £680 worth of food a year.

Carol Ubaldi is a busy working Mum from Newport South Wales – she’s also a self confessed food waster. She visits the supermarket four times a week, doesn’t plan what she’s buying and always goes for the deals like ‘buy one get one free’ . But all this means she ends up buying too much food and wasting too much too. In one week she threw away 2 stone in weight of food - we reckon that’s about £50 a week. In a special Tonight experiment we try and reduce her food waste and save her money.

Middle aged lady head and shoulders in kitchen
Carol Ubaldi Credit: ITV / Tonight

At the beginning of the supply chain is Stephen Watkins an NFU farmer owner who is fed up with seeing his crops going to waste. He says he’s wasting around 25% of his produce because of the cosmetic specifications that supermarkets impose.

Farmer stands in front of tractor in field
Stephen Watkins, Farmer Credit: ITV / Tonight

The British Retail Consortium who represent the supermarkets say that they are doing all they can to reduce waste on farms and have lowered their standards to enable more product to make it onto the shelves.

Thornton’s Budgen’s in London’s Crouch End is an independently owned supermarket that wastes almost nothing. The store chef, Bob takes all the food that is nearing it’s use by date and makes it into meals that are sold at the hot counter, other food is donated to charity and anything leftover is composted on the roof garden.

2 men prepare food in a kitchen
Jonathan Maitland lends a hand in the Thornton's Budgen's kitchen Credit: ITV / Tonight

But it’s not just supermarkets who need to do more. We’re eating out at restaurants more than ever – just under twice a week on average – and they, it’s claimed, are discarding 600,000 tonnes of food every year.

Wahaca, a chain of Mexican restaurants, is doing its bit to cut that figure by encouraging customers to take home doggie bags.

But some food waste is of course inevitable, hence the increasing focus on making sure we dispose of it in the best possible way.

That’s why more and more local authorities are turning our food waste into energy, using a process called “anaerobic digestion”. Jonathan Maitland travelled to Peterborough to see the new process in action.

man in safety jecket and helmet in front of mound of food waste
Jonathan Maitland sees how food waste can be put to good use Credit: ITV / Tonight

Tonight: What a Waste is on ITV at 7.30pm