Intelligent Operations

Carina Banks: Going Greener with Food Waste in Wandsworth Schools

Did you know that collectively, every country in the world discards a whopping 1.3 BILLION tons of food waste annually? That’s the equivalent of the Great Pyramid of Giza, 20,000 times over. And nearly how much I ate over the Christmas period.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme, a global non-government organisation who work to give the planet a sustainable future and tackle the climate crisis, have estimated that in the UK, food waste is estimated to be just under 10 million metric tons a year, with upwards of 65% of food waste coming directly from domestic households, and the rest from the retail industry, manufacturing and food and hospitality services. Most of this waste ends up in landfill, releasing thousands of tons of methane into the atmosphere when it degrades, contributing significantly to global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer.

A WRAP study conducted in 2011 was published which discussed food waste in the education sector. Approximately 80,000 tons of food was found to have been wasted across both primary and secondary schools; a figure that made up 13% of the UK’s total non-household food waste – a shocking amount from our schools alone.

While WRAP looks for global solutions, the UK Government have been trying to manage the issue of food waste on a national level, and with the introduction of the Environment Act 2021, have given the education sector requirements to manage their resources efficiently while they look to enforce food waste collections.

Here in Wandsworth, teachers have been working hard to educate our primary school children on the concepts of recycling and composting, to encourage a cleaner, greener present and future.

At Ronald Ross Primary School, various raw vegetable peelings and eggshells from the school kitchen are being collected by the children from the School Council or the school’s ‘Green Team’. There is a compost bin rota, with all year groups being given an allocated day on the rota to collect the peelings, which will then be deposited in the compost bin, composted, and then used on-site on the rooftop terrace helping the strawberries to taste delicious and of course they could be considered organically grown. There is a community noticeboard that is brimming with ideas on how to be green at Ronald Ross, so pupils, teachers and visitors alike can be inspired!

St Anselms Catholic Primary School in Tooting have also been reassessing their food waste disposal. Both raw and cooked waste is being collected during the dinner service into compostable bags and deposited into green domestic waste bins which are collected by the councils recycling team . The school is taking part in the council’s trial for the recycling of food waste. Staff at St Anselms also have their own food waste bin in the staff room – hopefully only a very small percentage of this waste is avoidable because the teachers have led by example and eaten up all of their lunch!

Since WRAP introduced their ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ Campaign in 2007, 1 in 3 people now recognise the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ brand and 76% of those people have done something differently to manage food in their home. We need to significantly change our approach to food management in schools too, and we can do this by informing staff and pupils about the impact of food waste on the environment both nationally and globally, making sure stock isn’t ordered excessively and that students are being served food proportionally to their needs and appetites.

With the average UK household discarding about 4lbs of food waste a day, the equivalent of 100 bowling balls annually will you join the fight against food waste if you haven’t already? Go on, have that last apple. Our future starts now.

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