Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Waste disposal

Photo: http://www.insinkerator.com

A few weeks ago the Observer magazine's Lucy Siegle wrote a column entitled 'Can I throw out food and be green?' which touched on how UK households have reduced the amount of food we throw out by 270,000 tonnes per year. It sounds a lot until she mentions that actually we still throw out 8m tonnes - half of which is still edible.

Lucy advocates the use of Food Waste Disgester units in the kitchen, which was a bit of a relief as we've had one in our kitchen for years. After buying a Magimix juicer about ten years ago, I insisted on a FWD to deal with the ensuing buckets of leftover, inedible fruit pulp. It seemed a sensible way to deal with quickly rotting peel but I wondered if it was ecologically ideal.

A friend who's seriously into eco living said that we were doing the right thing - at the time we were living in a flat so had no compost options, and it turns out that putting bio matter into London's sewers is actually good for them. Also, as Lucy Siegle points out, the FWDs create 10x more electricity than they use.

Now of course we live in a house where we could run a compost bin, but still prefer the FWD. The 30+ comments on the Guardian website in response to this article were quite something to read - nearly all of them echoed each other in the view that it's never OK to throw out food, that people should buy less and re-use everything.

Obviously very few of these people have kids - I can't speak for small boys, but my two girls rarely empty their plates. I've tried smaller portions, mixing things up for variety, you name it, but there is inevitably some mucky leftover on their plate that won't get eaten or saved for the next meal.

It's not like we're bulk buying food then chucking it when it goes past the best before date. All the stuff that goes into our FWD is stuff we wouldn't be eating - be it vegetable peel, inedible leftovers, teabags, coffee grinds and the occasional culinary disaster. It's incredible that not one of the commenters thought of this, instead advocating chickens & pigs (great in theory, not so great in some parts of London) and retro-fitting compost to apartment blocks. Geez people. Relax. Having a FWD sounds like a better option than just throwing food into landfill.


Anastasia said...

Are worm farms available in the UK? I've got one in my little courtyard in Melbourne, Australia, and it's great. I put my food waste in and the worms compost it up. I really hated putting food in the rubbish bin, too!

amyoliver said...

I really wish I had thought to put one in when we did our kitchen. I have had a quote to get one installed, and it is just not a cost we can justify at the moment. Interesting to know it is 'eco' In our area of London, they have justarted collecting all food scraps, however you have stinky bin sitting on your worktop. I agree that with small children, there is always food waste. That is when I don't hoover up the leftovers...;-)

kaybar007 said...

Anastasia - yup worm farms are popular here, though personally the thought gives me the heeby jeebies!

Amyoliver - our unit was about £150 and the plumber cut the hole out and put the switch in as part of the overall plumbing project - definitely worth investigating when you're feeling more flush. You'll be amazed how much less stuff is in your wheelie bin and of course there's no horrid smell...

SchoolhouseKat said...

I LOVE disposals - what we call them here - because I hate picking the sliimy little bits out of the strainer (we compost the big bits). But the schoolhouse we're renovating is on septic, and I've been told it's a very bad idea to have a disposal on septic, so - back to slimy bits for me.