UK Food Waste
931 million tonnes of food is wasted each year (UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021). If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste has a huge impact on climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. At the same time, 8.4 million people in the UK alone are struggling to afford to eat. This is the equivalent of the entire population of London. (Fareshare.org.uk)
With reducing waste at the core of what we do, the Reuseabox Team wanted to find out more about food waste and what we could do to help. The team visited The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) at their Kindness Warehouse in Leeds. Volunteering for the day at their community garden, we gained alarming insights into UK food waste. We also learnt about the work they are doing to stop thousands of tonnes of surplus food going to waste each year and some simple steps we can all take to help fight food waste. This is what we found out…
About The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP)
The Real Junk Food Project was founded 7 years ago by Adam Smith. They are a charitable enterprise that prevents surplus food from going to landfill.
The charity was started as a revolutionary concept to highlight the issues of food waste while also working to bring communities together. They intercept surplus food destined for landfill and redistribute it via schools, catering events, cafes and directly to the public. Anyone can Purchase a box of surplus food online and their ‘Pay As You Feel’ (PAYF) concept makes the scheme open to everyone.
With a mission to “Feed Bellies Not Bins”, the charity helps to educate and increase awareness about food waste. They also campaign against global issues that food waste creates.
Reducing Reliance on Unsustainable Food Sources
The existing methods of mass producing and distributing food are not sustainable. With climate change posing an increasing threat to the planet, it doesn’t make sense to keep wasting such huge volumes of food.
“We can’t continue intercepting surplus food for the rest of our lives. In order to close the loop we have to start growing our own food and showing people how to grow in urban spaces” Adam Smith explained.
To help reduce reliance on unsustainable food sources and create an alternative, TRJFP have been busy setting up their own community garden.
The Real Junk Food Project’s Community Garden
On arrival we were introduced to Caroline Scott, Head Gardener at TRJFP, who showed us around the community garden. Caroline explained that they planned to create a forest garden at the far end of the site. The forest garden will contain fruit trees, fruit bushes and low level plants. Once established a forest garden is easy to maintain and will act as a haven for wildlife.
The community garden will provide a source of fresh vegetables and fruit which will be used to supplement the food boxes given to customers. The garden will also act as an area for volunteers and employees to enjoy.
The Industrial Challenge
The site is currently heavily contaminated with metals such as copper and nickel due to its previous industrial use. To start to heal the soil the TRJFP team have been making their own compost using waste fruit and vegetables. This is also a great way of utilising waste food.
We were lucky enough to be part of the tree planting. We first had to dig large holes in the contaminated soil and fill them with the homemade compost. This proved hard work as the soil was dry and heavily compacted. We also lined the holes with plastic bags to keep the contaminated soil away from the trees. When the soil is fully healed, the bags will be pulled out and cut away from the trees.
The Reuseabox team also put their DIY skills to good use helping to build wooden planters from old pallets.
Feeding Bellies, Not Bins
Adam and the team kindly provided lunch using surplus food from their Kindness Warehouse. Vegan sausages were on the menu along with some fresh bread rolls and lemonade. Despite being rescued from the waste stream, the food was no different from what you would expect from your normal supermarket shop. It felt great to be reducing waste simply by having lunch!
After lunch, the team finished crafting another wooden planter and filled it with compost before planting the final fruit tree of the day.
How To Reduce Your Food Waste
If you want to help in the fight against food waste, the simplest and most effective thing you can do is to stop wasting food, but we know it’s not always that easy. Check out our top tips on how to eliminate food waste.
- Order one of TRJFP’s Food Boxes Online to reduce your weekly supermarket shop. TRJFP have a number of hubs around the country.
- Try to only buy as much food as you need. Freeze food you don’t use before its use by date.
- Try some new recipes to use up those leftovers.
- Have a compost bin where you can dispose of your food waste without sending it to landfill.
- Have a go at growing your own fruit or vegetables. Even if you don’t have a garden, you could try planting vegetable seeds on a sunny windowsill. Windowsills are also great places to grow fresh herbs.
How Reuseabox Will Fight Food Waste
The team at Reuseabox will shortly be moving to a new warehouse and office facilities. Our new site will have space for our very own community garden where we hope to use some of the knowledge we’ve gained from volunteering with TRJFP.
We are looking forward to re-visiting The Real Junk Food Project in the future to see how their community garden is progressing.
If you would like to get involved and support TRJFP there are several opportunities for businesses:
Volunteer With TRJFP
TRJFP is always looking for Volunteers to help out with their community garden and other projects.
Offer Your Services / Skills
If applicable, you can provide a particular service such as HR, compliance or legal support.
Raise money for The Real Junk Food Project.
Buy Their Food
Encourage your staff to purchase food from TRJFP instead of going to the supermarket.
TRJFP can now process your hard to recycle plastics such as plastic bags, coat hangers, bubble wrap, shrink wrap and plastic utensils. Find out more about how you can Recycle With TRJFP.
To get involved or to find out more head over to The Real Junk Food Project.
Team Reuseabox are always looking to support more local tree planting and community projects. If you have a sustainable project you’d like us to get involved in drop us an email email@example.com.