Fighting small battles will help win the war on waste

4th March 2016 Posted by

In order to achieve a circular and more resourceful future we, as individuals, need to challenge many of the small conventions present in our everyday lives.

In my view, making the transition to a more circular society in easy-to-manage, ‘bite-sized’ chunks is essential and will ensure that everyone in society comes along for the ride.

Take, for example, restaurant food waste. Some restaurant owners allow their customers to choose between a small, medium or large portion, while others provide just a single standard plate – in some cases far too large for all but the hungriest individuals to finish.

One could lay the blame for creating food waste at the door of the restaurants offering these single portion sizes, potentially providing food that a customer has no intention of eating, however, I believe that a small challenge to this convention by consumers would result in a huge win for society at no detriment to the restaurant sector.

For example, my wife usually has a smaller appetite than I do and often asks for a ‘child portion’ or ‘half portion’ when we visit restaurants. Very rarely is this a problem and sometimes we even pay less for it. My wife only gets the food she wants and the restaurant doesn’t have the subsequent food waste to dispose of. Who knows what other positive ramifications it may have? It may even mean that the restaurant doesn’t run out of a particular dish early and end up disappointing another customer?

Over time, if more people were to simply request smaller portions when they wanted them, more restaurants might see a case for putting dual portion sizes on their menus and gradually, we achieve societal change.

The same can apply in plenty of other situations, from ignoring buy-one-get-one-free offers unless necessary, all the way through to not picking up those free gifts at conferences and events that you don’t really need and will end up at the back of a draw.

As conscientious consumers, we just need to remember to challenge these conventions occasionally and think beyond the options we’re being presented with to get to the heart of what we really need. If we start consuming to our needs, rather than what we’re offered, business will adapt and we’ll see change on a major scale.

3 comments on "Fighting small battles will help win the war on waste"

  • will small changes have an impact or should we now follow the French by forcing supermarkets to give foodstuffs to the poor rather than throwing it away, will this not have a greater effect on society and perhaps bring society back to caring for others rather than shouting ME ME all the time, we have starving people on the streets, we have people who cant afford to put food on the table for their children, but our government keep telling us this is the 5th biggest economy in the world how can this be??
    Yes we need to change our behaviour we need to care.

    • Hi Gary
      The fundamental point is that we all can make positive contributions, be it individuals, be it companies like our own or be it through policy and legislation. Wasting food at farm level, at food processing level, at retail and at consumer level should be avoided and if that saves water, saves energy and makes food for affordable for all then we are on the right route. Personal responsibility needs to work with policy and practice such that, for instance misshapen vegetables are accepted by consumers. Supermarkets or any other food outlets should and often do work to minimise food waste in store but if any food waste that might otherwise be wasted can be redistributed, then it should be. However, I would argue that dealing with the fundamental reasons why people in our society may find it difficult to afford food should be the primary focus of any policy interventions and should take priority over a policy intervention on food waste distribution. Thanks Stuart

  • Thank you for your response, it is very strange that after my original e-mail some of the things I mentioned started to happen, perhaps we are ready for fundamental changes, all contributions have to be appreciated. Companies like yourselves have to be profitable you have shareholders to answer to, you should not be just a route to waste disposal, you have to become a company that becomes major recycle drivers, so that the waste you move,you sell on as a reusable resource, food waste to fertilizer/compost, metals to reuse, these are the easy ones, we need to invent new uses for all waste so that it becomes a valued resource and your company needs to be at the forefront of innovation in this field. Not only would it be good for all of us it will be profitable for yourselves. May I wish you luck.
    G. Threlfall

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