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Waste Not, Want Not

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Wastage is something that we are all guilty of. A documentary on Channel 4 called 'The People's Supermarket' got me thinking recently about a time when I was young and dinner time consisted of huge quantities of food for all - often some of which would have to be thrown away at the end of it.

My household wasn't alone, and as a result of habits like these, the environment is continuing to be effected. In fact, according to DEFRA, we generate about 228 million tonnes of waste every year in England alone. If we take food wastage as one example, annually we're actually throwing away £23 billion worth of food according to Love Food Hate Waste. It argues that if we all stop throwing food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking one in five cars off the road.

So why the high and ever-increasing levels of waste in today's society? Aesthetics seem to play a big role; it's fair to say that if I had the choice between buying a perfect packet of biscuits or one that was crushed, I'd instinctively go for the one fully intact even though it would taste exactly the same. And it is not just us - the consumers - seeking perfection; supermarkets are looking to display perfect products in order to attract customers - the better it looks the more likely we are to buy it.

Alongside aesthetics, as consumers, we're constantly swayed by the latest products that make their ways into the shops. This means those older more outdated lines tend to suffer and companies can more often than not be left with excess stock they need to get rid of in order to make way for newer products which are far more likely to generate interest and most importantly - profit. Take furniture lines as a case in point - when newer more contemporary design comes in, what becomes of those older, slightly more outdated three piece suites that no one wants to take home with them? With often little option but to send the older stock to landfill, the furniture is then simply disposed and has ultimately entirely gone to waste.

With this in mind, whilst there's undoubtedly going to be waste in the world we live in, it doesn't need to damage the environment. It should be recycled or incinerated, even re-distributed. In fact, one method - corporate bartering - can see a retailer exchange their stock in return for an increased marketing budget.

It'll allow companies to enhance their marketing campaigns by part-paying for media with their products or services - in this instance the furniture or the biscuits that otherwise would have been thrown away. So essentially these companies will receive larger marketing budgets to play with in return for sensibly getting rid of potential waste - and reducing the level of damage to the environment.

Whatever the solution, retailers need to follow the lead of their counterparts who are beginning to put processes in place to battle the level of wastage that's having a potentially catastrophic impact on our environment. If asked to eat a broken biscuit in return for playing my part in helping the planet, I know what my answer would be.