Three little questions, but highly pertinent ones at the moment since the days of landfilling all of our rubbish (including our organic food and garden wastes) must surely come to an end due to the environmental problems and human health risks associated with this practice.
I have taken a slightly different slant on this blog from the usual topics of restaurants, recipes and discussions of trends. As many of you (may or may not) know, my day job these days is as an Environmental Scientist, a lot of which encompasses involvement in waste treatment work and solutions, hence this topic for the blog is somewhat of a crossover and one I have recently been putting a bit more thought into.
In the past, all waste, including leftover food from our tables was sent into landfill. Here in the landfill the food and garden waste would breakdown over time and produce water, gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Methane and sometimes other compounds. These gases pose a problem and the liquor in the landfill from putrescable waste also needs to be removed and treated or in worst-case scenarios, risk polluting the ground water.
These days things are steadily improving, with local Authorities conducting collections for organic food and garden waste, which is sent for large scale composting or microbial breakdown to produce AD (Anaerobic Digestate). The composts and AD from our food waste can be reused quite easily, being very high in nutrients for plants, it can be readily used in landscaping and soil quality improvement. In a bit of shameless plugging, some work I was involved with for a quarry improvement study using AD products and both food and garden wastes can be seen here: [http://www.wrapcymru.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Creating_new_quarry_landscapes_using_quality_compost_and_biofertiliser.650802c5.11228.pdf]. In the AD process, bio-gas can be produced using specialist equipment and this in itself can be a fuel and some can describe it as a renewable form of energy. However, things are still far from perfect as this is not the norm.
Local Authorities are steadily catching on, collecting the food for composting and treatment by AD to produce energy, but there are some things you can do at home to reduce the amount of waste that you produce in the kitchen to begin with. A paper has been written recently on the subject of AD and its authors outline how best to kick start proper infrastructure here: [http://www.centreforum.org/assets/pubs/hit-the-gas.pdf].
A good place to start to get ideas is on the lovefoodhatewaste website, shown here:[http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/about-food-waste] – 7.2 million tonnes of waste a year from food sources alone is a staggering amount, even for a ~60 million strong population. Reducing the output is the first step, so making a meal of leftovers (see some Nigel Slater recipes for this) and keeping stock of dry and tinned staples such as lentils, pasta, beans, rice along with a host of tasty spices will see you a long way to keeping your food interesting, but also economically and environmentally sound.
One little tip I use for example, when making vegetable soups is to keep hold of any skins, peels or off-cuts from the veg I wouldn’t normally use and use them to make a stock by boiling them in a pan for 5-10 minutes extracting all the flavour. Then (if the peel has been cleaned and is edible, for example potato or celeriac skin, broccoli leaves) you can add them to the blender with the stock as the basis for a soup. Alternatively, make sure you put the waste into the recycling bin or compost heap (should you have either available!).
Has anyone else any ideas for reducing food waste? Any excellent tips for producing good compost?