‘It breaks your heart’ - how businesses are tackling food waste in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 10:33 14 May 2019
As supermarket chains announce pledges to halve food waste by 2030, reporter JESSICA FRANK-KEYES finds out what Norfolk’s businesses are doing to tackle the 10.2 million tonnes of food the UK wastes each year.
From cutting down on single use plastics to buying second hand clothes, more and more of us are considering our impact on the planet when we open our wallets.
But one criticism of the trend for eco-friendly shopping is that it's the businesses themselves - rather than consumers - who have real power to tackle problems head on.
And one environmental issue has seen some firms in Norfolk step up to take action: food waste.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures reveal the UK wastes 10.2 million tonnes of food each year, with more than 1.9 million tonnes coming from food manufacturing, hospitality and retail.
The government has launched an initiative to urge major food industry players to halve wastage, with retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose pledging to help cut it by 50pc by 2030, and environment secretary Michael Gove branding the issue "an environmental, economic and moral scandal".
And projects across our county - from community fridges to food sharing apps - have helped businesses begin to address it.
Sam Coomes, is manager of The Sitting Room cafe, in Sheringham - one of the few businesses in Norfolk who sell on produce at the end of the day on food sharing app, Too Good To Go.
She said: "Sheringham's a place where there are so many cafes and restaurants and it breaks your heart to see the amount of food that gets thrown away.
"People come and get a whole box and get a few meals out of it."
And she added that staff at the cafe, who have been using the app for a few months, have begun promoting it to other businesses.
"We know quite a few business owners and we do really try and encourage them to try it out. But it's just us and one other place.
"Because we're quite small, we make pennies, but bigger companies would be making money. We'd just rather give it away than it go in the bin."
BB's Coffee and Muffins, in Norwich's Castle Mall and Chapelfield shopping centres, is another firm using the app.
A BB's employee, who didn't want to be named, said: "The customer through the app pays £3.75 and they get about £10 worth of food for that.
"Every day is different but most days we get a lot of people in.
"It's definitely working well but more people need to know about it. Years ago you used to be able to give [food] away but the policies were changed."
And waste reduction strategies are key to Cata Parrish's business plan for Norwich zero waste shop and cafe, Re.Source.
"I wanted to find out how cafes and restaurants can be as waste free as possible," Ms Parrish said.
"We have them running together so we can address that.
"You need to work locally and buy local produce, so it doesn't need packaging."
She added: "We're really careful about portion sizes and we always ask people: 'Do you want some bread with that? Do you want butter or milk with that?'
"Once its gone out on the plate we can't serve it again."
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The cafe also has a wormery and a compost heap, which goes to local grower, Norwich FarmShare.
And Ms Parrish said her aim for the business is to be completely waste free - with no bins on site.
"We look through our waste each week to see how we could have done better," she added.
But she admitted it could be challenging, saying: "We're asking people to change their habits."
And another way businesses are reducing their food waste is via donations to community fridges, which are run by community groups in towns including Dereham, Swaffham and Thetford.
The fridges are one of the biggest networks in the country, according to county council waste reduction manager Kate Murrell.
She said: "Food waste is interesting, because you can affect it at all parts of the chain - from supermarkets to manufacturers to consumers."
Anita Clarke, from the Love Dereham group, runs the town's community fridge, which regularly gets donations from chains including Lidl and Tesco.
"We get donations from Co-op but also [the cafe] Flour and Bean.
"We had £1,000 worth of ice cream a few weeks ago."
Mrs Clarke said the volunteer-run fridges, which are not the same as food banks, "are about food waste. Some people expect certain items but businesses can pass on any food that's past its sell by date for anyone in the community to use - for free."
But she added: "[Businesses] do need to not think that they're doing us a favour."
'Small measures we can all do' - tips to cut down on food waste at home
Food waste is something we can all help tackle from our own fridges and freezers.
Cata Parrish, from Re.Source, Norwich's first zero waste shop and cafe, shared some tips to help you get started:
- Make a meal plan for the week or the month. Start with your favourite meals and fill in the gaps around them.
- Shop according to that and don't buy anything else, or if something's really reduced, fit your meal plan around it.
- Use apps like OLIO or Too Good To Go - if someone's got a pound of bananas, you can make a loaf of banana bread.
- Think about what you buy lots of and try to grow it yourself. Herbs go off quickly so see if you can grow them on a windowsill or garden.
- If you haven't made a meal plan, look at what you've got in your fridge, rather than thinking 'I fancy lasagne'.
-Can you compost; can you feed worms; can you feed the birds? Have you got a pet who will enjoy the scraps?
Ms Parrish added: "These are small measures we can all do at home".
Is Norfolk doing enough to cut food waste? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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