Where has all the food waste gone?

Photo: www.sr.se

I was thinking about this song the other day, you know the one: Where have all the flowers gone, Long time passing. Shows my age? No, honest, I think it was before my time.

Thinking how our concerns have changed focus but are infinitely more serious in a way. It feels like you couldn’t even try to write a song any more to express the worries we have for our future, for our planet, for our children and their future. But maybe that’s how they felt in the sixties too. So much good has come out of those worries, so much change and yet we now face concerns of such a dimension most are just doing an ostrich.

Today on national radio here there was a programme on food waste from supermarkets, and the big question is where on earth does it all go. The many charity organisations that could put any amount of close-to-use-by-date meat and vegetables to good use are not getting it. Nor are farmers, gardeners or others who could put it to use.

Most is simply wasted. Or used for energy recycling as they so euphemistically call it here. Which means burning it up in a huge modern mill and shipping out the energy onto the local district heating grid. Good in that at least some of the energy value in the food is put to good use. Bad in that none of it makes its way back to the soil where it belongs. And roughly a quarter of it ends up as a form of indescribable slag that even the rubbish tips can’t deal with.

Another hot use is biogas. Also an industrial, my-factory-is-bigger-than-yours solution. Generating much in demand biogas for running cars, buses and trucks. But also generating a sort of compost that has a quality often best suited to landfill. Unfortunately. Let’s hope the soil component turns out to be done well at some stage so at least some of it has the chance to become new food in the future.

The homeless generally don’t get much of a look in. The reason apparently is the stores are scared of generating a black market which would undermine their brands and possibly even cause a health scare. I’ve heard of stores that have all their food waste picked up by farmers, who then give it to their pigs. Which must be a good thing! But I’ve also heard that one of the big things stopping this sort of thing is all the plastic, a million small packages that have to be picked apart each day to separate the food from the packaging. Blah.

I been trying myself for a while to find a good second-hand food supplier. I’d like to start a small soil factory here, nothing extravagant, but a sort of demonstration setup to show how food waste can be simply and efficiently be recycled on quite a small piece of land using Bokashi and imagination. But so far I haven’t got hold of a supplier (which doesn’t mean I’ve given up, far from!). The local supermarkets won’t give me anything (but won’t say where their waste goes), a corner shop in town already has a deal with a guy who’s feeding wildlife (right or wrong I can’t say), and more institutional operators such as homes for old people require collection logistics on a scale I can’t handle. But there’s also fear and tradition to take into account; people are quite simply not good at doing new things.

But a bright spot! A Bokashi-colleague and friend is running a worm-farm in her garage (yep, you read right). She’s been collecting food waste from friends and cafes to feed to her worms. Time-consuming and delightful, but talk about putting food waste to a good cause!

One thought on “Where has all the food waste gone?

  1. hi helen,
    thanks so much for leaving a comment on my blog. your blog is amazing! i’m so glad i have found it. i love bokashi and am pretty much hooked. we are a family of six and have no “garden” – as it is all pool and pebblecrete and tiles at the front (greek landlady!). but i have heaps of pots and containers and a great worm farm, as well as a dog and a rabbit. and now bokashi takes care of the remaining scraps. so our rubbish is greatly reduced.
    i’ll see what solutions i can glean from your pages and let you know how it all goes.
    kind regards,

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