There’s no doubt that as a country, we are becoming much more environmentally aware as programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet shine a light on just how fragile our planet is becoming, as well as the growing influence of activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Individuals and businesses alike have a responsibility to do more.
At Changeworks Recycling, we regularly speak to a whole range of Edinburgh businesses, large and small, and it’s encouraging to see that, regardless of sector, they all have one thing in common – a desire to become more environmentally sustainable and reduce their carbon emissions.
But what does this look like? Because of the increased media attention on the threat of plastic, most businesses and individuals we speak to assume that the best way to improve sustainability is to reduce their plastic consumption. And while this is hugely important and we must all focus on eradicating single use plastics, the biggest thing we can to do combat the climate emergency we are facing is to address the issue of food waste.
Yes, food waste is a bigger threat to our planet than plastic.
As businesses and individuals, we are all guilty of producing food waste, some businesses and some homes more so than others, without understanding the implications. When food is thrown away without being properly recycled, it ends up in landfill. As this food material breaks down, it produces methane, a hugely toxic greenhouse gas, which in the short term, poses a bigger threat to our climate than carbon dioxide.
So, it may seem fairly inconsequential when you are throwing away the last of your Sunday lunch or your employees are casting their third tea bag of the morning into the general waste bin every day, but the effects can be devastating.
Internationally we emit the same amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from food waste as we do from all global road transport. To put that into context, ensuring that food waste is properly recycled will do more to save our planet and reduce the threat of climate change than removing every single car from the road across the world. We cannot underestimate how important this is.
The fix is simple – ensure all food waste in your premises, office or otherwise, is recycled. Not only will this significantly reduce the threat of climate change, but the food recycling process actually captures gases that can provide an incredible source of energy. By recycling just one kilogram of food waste, you can generate enough energy to power all lights in a home for an hour.
Consumers are changing their buying habits to avoid single use plastic, retailers are changing their packaging process and the Government has even introduced an industry-wide commitment to reducing the use of plastic in future. Such initiatives must be applauded, but we urgently need to see the same approach to food waste.
Collectively we can combat climate change; we just need to focus on reducing our food waste and ensuring it is properly recycled.
Forbes Connor, Managing Director, Changeworks Recycling