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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Food Waste and resolving our complacency with the wasted food mountain.

The food waste issue is mentioned in the UK mass media again – it is something we all face on a regular basis. This time the emphasis is upon the calls for supermarkets to end their BOGOF deals in the interest of reducing the millions of tonnes of food waste.

The BOGOF deals (Buy One – Get One Free) psychologically primes us that we are making great savings when we are out shopping and doubling our purchases for prospectively half the price of costs ….. yet the reality is the food will not be eaten quickly enough and will go off and inevitably end up in the compost bin/black bin.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves: Do I really need to buy this? Or is it an issue of people believing that food is useless once it hits the expiry date? Can we risk keeping food an extra day or two for consumption after the expiry date?

The different sources of information may not always be consistent with each other – yet it is plausible that ten’s of thousands of tonnes of food is wasted each year (by many countries).

What can we do to reduce this waste stream contributor?

Grow your own:
Is it possible that growing your own food will give us a new found respect for food? Understanding the cycle, the process, the responsibility or growing it, harvesting and eating it?

Home Composting:
Is it not a cop-out to just assume “It’s okay – we can throw it in the composting bin?” It’s a more benign manner to dispose of excessive/expired food stuffs.

Composting is important – in fact: it is critical to return the nutrients to our soils. Yet it should not be abused! The more localised the composting can be done with zero to few miles travelled - If composting was fully comprehensive (where primarily some composting is done on-site of the domestic home, the restaurant, the office place, the college campus etc. then excessive amounts were picked up by council services) then it can be an even more sustainable process for us to support (than sending it long distance to be composted elsewhere.)

Yet to reiterate: please do not abuse composting as a fall-back just as we become more complacent with our fridges food stock.
Food Banks:
Again – an important part of society; these social enterprises have risen up in a post-economic downturn era to support record numbers of families and individuals who have been forced into economically compromising conditions. Yet we should not just abuse Food Banks strained resources by piling on food which we should ourselves not be wasting – as if it goes off whilst Food Banks are trying to distribute them; it is hardly fair on that social enterprise nor the desperate end recipients.
A constant burning food torch:
What we need is a constant reminder; posters may be an idea? Yet will become an irritation until ignored …. perhaps community mass composters? Or will we get more complacent with these? Any ideas? Local food growing programmes where everyone gets involved to remind us of how precious food is and how many of us may take it for granted as being on tap? For now all we can hope for is the media keep reminding us periodically … yet we need something else in play.
What can you do?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

More flooding - what positive small steps with responsible basin use, toilet use and garden expansion can save us?

The UK media have put a lot of coverage behind the terrible floods that we have faced around the UK with particular emphasis upon South West with many towns, villages and general districts being hit the worst. Many will blame poor infrastructure; the sewers and river way management or other associated issues.
The Authorities such as the Environment Agency will give information/warnings on where floods may occur, yet we should be more empowered to contribute to minimising the flooding impacts - this is achievable in small steps too.
Sometimes token measures adopted by each home will have a massive knock on national positive impact to reducing the overburden on our sewer systems and thus helping reducing our burst banks and flooding of homes, industry and agricultural space.
Whatever the final error - it is all based on causal events which we should all partake in to reduce impacts. What we place down the sink and toilet will go to the sewers, when the sewers are full (build up in non-liquid waste) a backlog will occur and people's domestic guttering may find itself oozing out with unwanted filth, sludge and pungent smells.
If the sewers are full (or blocked) the rain water will not be appropriately directed away from cities, towns, villages and fields.
It starts with the toilet:
  • Don’t flush wet wipes.
  • Don’t flush away sanitary towels.
  • Don’t flush anything artificial other than toilet paper.
  • The only thing that should go down the loo is urine, blood, vomit, faeces and toilet paper – too many people assume a toilet is a 2nd domestic bin. This is not appropriate.
  • Consult the internet for basic ‘Keep the toilet from getting blocked’ methods before needlessly wasting professionals time (and your wallet).
… Everything but the Kitchen sink:
  • Add a Strainer / Stopper Waste Plug to collect the waste in the bottom.
  • Don’t flush it away - Food waste can be picked out the strainer/stopper and put it in a composting bin which most houses have adopted now.
  • Everything saved going down the sink will cause less stress on our sewer systems.
The Garden:
  • Will a water butt help reduce the amount of water fallen in long rainy periods? When is the 'safe period' to empty it then?
  • Expand the garden. This may be too late for many - as with road expansions over the last fifty years in urban areas - many streets sacrificed their gardens to the road programme to widen roads .... with less garden space - we have less rain absorption abiity - which is fatal in built up areas which are reliant upon sewer systems.
  • Planning should support expanding green space - or maximising efficient use of green spaces in areas that are built up - more green roofs perhaps? With more grass space will come more rain absorption and lesser burden of flooding.
What we don’t put down the drain will have a positive impact elsewhere. If entire streets of people were responsible with minimising how little they put down the drain (toilets, basins etc.) then the sewer network will be able to function more nominally. The Channel 4Dispatches programme does highlight many of the things people needlessly throw down the toilets.
With an efficiently run sewer system – it will be able to deal with some of the potential flooding problems we have witnessed in early 2014. This blog does not put responsibility squarely at the feet of domestic home users (the vast majority of us) and Water Companies who are responsible for the running of the Sewers. This blog simply emphasises that we all have a responsibility for minimising what we put down the drain.

Other approaches such as efficient toilets, innovative sewer applications, improved and widespread agricultural good land practice or any other variables that will emerge in the early 21st century. This is not claimed as the sole answer to flood reduction - another favoured approach is more tree planting and woodland expansion in order to absorb the torrents of rain. The Woodland Trust have published such a report.

What any country cannot consistently tolerate is mass flooding which destroys lives, puts a burden on the economy and a burden on communities. We must all take a responsible stance in the starting points of what we put down the toilets and sinks into the sewer networks.

What can you do?