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We can all help in the War on Waste

Karen Cannard with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Karen Cannard with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I had planned for this month’s column to focus on the festive period, which as well as being the season to be jolly has gained notoriety as the season of most waste.

However, waste is not just for Christmas and this couldn’t have been highlighted any more loudly than in Hugh’s War on Waste, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest series for BBC1, which was broadcast earlier this month.

If you saw it, you would have witnessed the shocking amount of food waste generated through our supply chains as well as what comes out of our homes. If you missed it, it’s still available on BBC iPlayer – and it’s worth a watch to see the fight against supermarket food waste and the role that we have as individuals, not least through the impact of small changes that can be made at home. The message is clear. As a country we are still creating too much waste, especially food waste (15 million tonnes a year) and we need to pull together more tightly as communities to make an unprecedented impact on reducing it.

But what does that mean for our own community? It’s easy to watch a programme like Hugh’s War on Waste and feel powerless or hope that someone else with more clout can solve it. However, if you saw the difference that Prestwich residents such as Jo, Kelly and Michelle made to their own waste habits, you will have seen them look at rubbish in a new light. They shifted from a position of accepting their usual amount of waste as ‘the norm’ to creating a ‘new norm’ – recycling better and actively reducing food waste - really making a positive difference to their lifestyles and to their community too.

I was chuffed to have had the opportunity to work with Hugh and his team as an adviser to the programme. You could say it was a key highlight of my ‘rubbish career’. Since the broadcast I have been overwhelmed by enthusiasm from local groups, businesses and community leaders wanting to do something positive and over the last few weeks I have been busy harnessing ideas and sharing practical steps.

If you too have been itching to do something but haven’t known where to start, here are my top suggestions:

-- Add your voice to Hugh’s War on Waste, asking supermarkets to reduce the millions of tonnes of surplus food that is wasted every year. Over 270,000 people have pledged so far and every voice counts. Add your support at www.wastenotuk.com

-- Take a fresh look at your own rubbish on the home front (or at work) to see if there is anything else you can do. The Rubbish Diet Challenge, of which I am a co-founder, is a free tool-kit packed full of tips, slimmers’ stories and videos that can help make recycling easier and reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away by your household. Our latest Food Challenge has already helped ‘dieters’ halve their food waste in just three weeks. Sign up at www.therubbishdiet.org.uk/food-challenge.

-- Think about how you can help others in your immediate community. This can be as simple as sharing the above links on social media or in a community newsletter or volunteering to share your own waste-busting skills. If you want to do more to inspire others in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding villages, I would be delighted to hear from you. Just email me at Karen@therubbishdiet.org,uk, tweet me or leave your details with the Bury Free Press.

Meanwhile, with thoughts towards Christmas, try these rubbish hacks: If you can’t eat something by its Use-By date, freeze it for later; Arm yourself with an easy soup/sauce recipe for your festive leftovers; On Christmas Day itself, set aside an empty sack just for recycling. For more top tips, visit www.therubbishdiet.org.uk/5-tips-for-a-waste-less-christmas.


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