Words Vicki Ravlich-Horan Images Ashlee DeCaires
Every year the average Kiwi household sends 89kgs of edible food to landfill. This figure does not include food scraps that can’t be eaten, like egg shells and banana peels. It also doesn’t include food wasted at the source or through our supply chain i.e. what producers, distributors, supermarkets and restaurants throw away.
The problem is huge! But the real problem doesn’t lie in the sheer waste: the waste of resources it takes to grow, store and transport food, or the waste of money which we throw away each time we waste food. The real problem lies in the fallacy that because it’s compostable there’s no harm sending it to landfill.
Food waste is the second largest cause of methane pollution. When you throw those potato peels or stale bread out and it ends up in landfill, it doesn’t decompose as nature designed. Instead, starved of oxygen, it breaks down anaerobically, producing methane gas, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
One-third of the world’s food goes to waste, contributing to 6.7% of the world’s carbon emissions—if food waste was a country, it would be the third worst country behind the US and China.
Tackling food waste has a big impact and is a lot less complex than recycling, it’s easier than taking public transport and cheaper than installing solar panels. It’s something you can do now!
Plus, if you divert your compostable waste from landfill, it breaks down as nature intended, returning the nutrients to the earth, eliminating the need for artificial fertilisers and helping us to grow nutrient dense food.
Composting ‘waste’ is nature’s original carbon recycling system.
What Can We Do?
The first step is to reduce your waste from the get-go; shop to a list, preferably one created from a meal plan, only buying what you need. Those ‘buy two get one free’ offers seem like great value—except when you end up throwing half away. Wayne Good from Arkanda suggests you “shop as you need, not as a habit”. Wayne says, “My fridge always has very little in it except milk, condiments, butter, cheese etc.” This method requires a lot of discipline! “It’s very easy to go in for a bottle of milk and come out with sixty dollars’ worth of stuff,” admits Wayne.
Wayne’s method of shopping often and only for what you need eliminates food going off before you can use it, but if shopping daily doesn’t work for you, you need to learn to store your food correctly to get as long a life out of it as possible.
Samsung’s ingenious Family Hub fridge helps you with your shopping list, sending it to your phone. It can also alert you when food is about to expire. There are a number of great products for storing food from sachets that absorb the ethalene in your vege bin like these
from The Gilded Edge in Mount Maunganui or these ingenious Swag bags, available at the Herbal Dispensary in Raglan, which help keep your fruit and vegetables as well as your bread and baked goods fresher longer.
Your freezer is also a great tool with so many foods, from egg whites to ripe bananas, bread to leftovers all fine to be frozen and extending their life for months. Just be sure to label everything clearly! Frozen lime juice looks just like egg whites—a lesson I learnt the hard way.
Wilted Green Balls
These ever-changing balls are the answer to all those now wilting greens you bought with good intentions of downing a green smoothie each morning or to a vege garden that goes crazy with more leafy greens than you can eat.
Bananas are one of our favourite fruits, but they can be troublesome; one day they’re green, the next speckled with black spots, which means the fussy ones won’t touch ’em. They are also one of the top fruits we waste with New Zealanders, throwing away just under 5 tonnes a year!
Frozen bananas make the best smoothies! The trick is to peel and chop them first, then freeze them on a tray before storing in a container in the freezer. This will mean you will have no-fuss free-flow bananas whenever you need them.
Dos and Don’ts
As a tropical fruit, bananas don’t do well being chilled, so don’t be tempted to store them in the fridge. In the same breath, don’t store bananas in the fruit bowl with other fruit unless you’re trying to ripen them both fast. Bananas release ethylene gas through their stems, so to slow down their ripening you can try wrapping the stems.
This versatile banana bread is another great answer to overripe bananas. If, after a couple of days, you haven’t managed to eat the loaf, it can be toasted and enjoyed in a whole new way.
Don’t Scrap It
A good portion of food waste comes from food prep, throwing away food like potato peels and broccoli stalks. Take a look at the scraps you generate. Can they be eaten? Stop peeling potatoes and carrots and scrub them instead. You’ll reduce the waste and gain extra nutrients from their skin.
Chop those broccoli and cauliflower stalks up and use them in stir fries, salads and stews. Vegetable scraps like onion peel, carrot tips and celery roots can all be kept and used to make a flavoursome stock.
Parmesan Rinds – don’t throw these away! Toss them into your soups or stews or when making stock for a flavour boost.
If you have ever been through a juicing phase you may have wondered what you can do with all the pulp. These crackers are one idea, as long as your juice is full of veg like carrot, spinach, kale, celery and beetroot, not orange and pineapple etc.
Love Your Leftovers
After bread, leftovers are the second biggest category of food we waste. Instead of throwing out your leftovers, embrace them and what they offer, i.e. a free lunch.
Work leftovers into your meal plan, creating two meals from one, saving you time and money.
With a few leftover roast veg or pumpkin, an onion, perhaps a bit of bacon or chorizo and any other veg (zucchini, mushrooms, capsicum, spinach…) bound together with egg and you suddenly have a great meal.
Serve it with toast and/or a salad and always a spoonful of your favourite chutney or relish. We love Peplers great range of small-batch, locally-made chutneys and relishes.
Soups have long been a great way to make a nutritious meal out of very little, from those veg at the bottom of the fridge you may be tempted to throw out to a chicken carcass. This hearty soup-cum-stew is a wonderful way to make a delicious meal from your Sunday roast leftovers using not just the leftover meat but the bone for a flavoursome stock.
This is another great way to use leftover meat from a roast.
Every year Kiwis send 157,398 tonnes of food to landfill (source Love Food Hate Waste NZ).
New Zealander’s throw away almost $2 billion of food a year (according to a 2017 RaboDirect survey).