Helen Martin: Waste not, want not to have new food bin

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LIKE others in my neighbourhood, I am trialling food waste collection. It was all very exciting at first when the new, round, grey plastic, kitchen box with its biodegradable liners (to contain cooked food, meat, bones etc) joined the old, square, grey plastic, kitchen box (for peelings, tea bags and egg shells) on my worktop.

And the natty little black and grey lockable bin was placed outside the back door eagerly awaiting its first batch of cooked food disposal.

I don’t know whether I’m a failure or a success, but it’s not working out. The square box is emptied twice a week into the outside compost bin for the garden. The new, round box now has about two centimetres of waste food in it – after three weeks!

I don’t seem to have bought anything with bones in. Any leftover meat or fish goes in the dog bowl. Same with excess pasta or rice, although there’s usually little of that because we often use leftovers for next day’s lunch.

So far, the round box has a spoonful of curry (not suitable for the dog, not enough for a human), three stale and soft Bourneville biscuits, two boiled egg shells and a small pot of potato salad I forgot about. I didn’t think I was that good at being green, but the ensuing mould certainly is, and that tells a different story. It would take me about a year to fill the box. I feel obliged to buy and roast a whole chicken just so I have something to put in it – once I’ve boiled up the bones for stock, of course.

Already some of my neighbours have left their black and grey lockable bins out with a note asking the council to take them back because they are not using them.

I wonder who is? “Over a third of your bin waste is food!” proclaim the posters and pamphlets promoting the trial to turn Edinburgh into “Edenburgh”. Not round our way it’s not.

I’m now beginning to worry about whether or not the mould spores being cultivated in the new box will infect the rest of the kitchen so I’ll have to put my pathetic offering out, but I fear it’s so paltry the bin men will think I’m taking the mick.

The trouble is, we eat what needs to be used first. Every so often I have a Ready Steady Cook moment where fridge leftovers combine with a couple of cans, some past-its-best garlic and a lonely chorizo to make what I somewhat ambitiously call “a cassoulet”. The idea of chucking out perfectly good food never occurs to me, which may be something to do with my age, but more to do with the rising cost of the weekly shop. Who can afford it?

It’s a matter of regret that Mr and Mrs F Goodwin moved on from my parish a while ago to Graeme Souness’ old home in Colinton because, in true tabloid fashion, I would have loved to creep round to their former “big hoose” at dead of night and see what choice morsels they had discarded in their new food bin. A quail carcase or two? A portion or three of langoustine? Caviar past its sell-by? Is Mrs G a prudent shopper and cook or do they have a chef and some Downton-type retainers to eat up the scraps? I’ll never know now, but I suspect they were as waste aware (in the kitchen at least) as the rest of us and, like everyone else, lectured by their children on looking after the planet.

It’s Catch 22. I can’t help thinking there must be better test grounds for food recycling – areas populated by students who haven’t yet learned to cook, or club-and-pub land where half-eaten pizzas, abandoned kebabs, and dropped pudding suppers are par for the course. Alas, the snag might be persuading them to use the counter boxes, biodegradable bags and collection bins, let alone put them out on the right day.

It doesn’t get old

WHAT could be lower than a crook who picks on old people?

And how can we get the message across to the elderly to stop opening their homes to bogus callers?

The same old routine works time after time for the cold-hearted thieves.

“Come to check your water, love” somehow translates as “Open Sesame” to our old folk who are either just too trusting or don’t like to be rude, God bless them.

Then “Abracadabra” – their cash is nicked.

So show no mercy and drill your granny in the appropriate response to unexpected callers.

“Wait outside while I phone my neighbour” is one. “Great, would you mind just smiling at the CCTV first?” is worth a try.

Best of all is refusing to open the door at all and telling the caller to make an appointment, giving gran time to assemble reinforcements.

It pains me to say, but we have to help the elderly to wise up.