They are the sort of statistics that leave you shaking your head in disbelief. The average UK family throws away the equivalent of 24 meals a month wasting £720 a year in the process. Overall Britons are chucking away seven million tonnes of food and drink every year. This seems illogical when households are being heavily squeezed financially and need to look after every penny.
Financial pressures do seem to be slowly changing habits, but far more need to be done to stop the absurdity of edible food being trashed. My new charity, Hubbub, is taking a different approach to getting the message across.
At Halloween 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are dumped with only one third of people eating the insides they have carefully scooped out when carving the pumpkin. It is the sort of shocking statistic that acts as a wake-up call demonstrating the cumulative impact of our individual actions. Our intention is to highlight food waste at other key times of the year such as Christmas, Bonfire Night, Pancake Day and Easter, building a growing level of awareness.
Hitting passion points
Carbon, waste and sustainability are not typical conversation topics instead people get passionate about sport, fashion, food, their homes and their neighbourhood. We will encourage people to take a fresh look at these interests discovering new ways to get more out of life whilst at the same time reducing environmental damage.
Making it real
We aim to demonstrate what can be achieved by working collaboratively with organisations in one area. For Halloween, we have partnered with eight local organisations in Oxford to create the Oxford Pumpkin Festival, a series of events, pop-up restaurants, displays and talks all demonstrating that there are enjoyable and social ways to cut food waste.
In our opinion too often local behaviour change initiatives are detached from wider policy issues. To coincide with the Pumpkin Festival we have launched a food waste manifesto designed to shift the policies of companies and government making it easier for people to cut food waste. This is being reinforced by a #pumpkinrescue social media campaign.
Being truly sustainable
It is important that our involvement has positive social and financial impact. Socially we are seeking to redistribute collected food to those most in need via local food banks. We also want to give people new skills and confidence helping them both professionally and socially. Financially we want to help people make their money go further and reduce the amount the local council is wasting on paying landfill tax.
Will this approach work? Only time will tell, but what is clear is that more effective public engagement campaigns are needed if we are to stop food waste being needlessly thrown away.