Irish households produce over 250,000t of food waste every year, costing each household an average of €700 per annum.
A recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey has found that the main reasons for food waste is allowing products to exceed their use-by dates and forgetting to consume leftovers in time. Bread is the most commonly thrown out food product with 41% of respondants revealing that they throw out bread products. Folowing bread for the most wated products were vegetables, fruit and salads. Nine out of 10 respondants agreed that consumers have a role to play in preventing food waste. According to the survey, dairy and meat were not thrown out as much as other products.
As flour is an imported product in Ireland, there is an added environmental waste. According to Andy Doyle, tillage editor with the Irish Farmers Journal we could potentially start producing wheat flour in Ireland, but only if we widen the thinking process behind its production and marketing.
While the fundamental issue at present is having no access to a mill for large-scale bread production in Ireland, Doyle believes we could replace some of the flour that we import with Irish wheat to make brown bread.
“We could supply some of the wheat, we need to produce bread that is suitable for Irish consumers. Although we could make biscuits with our flour, the volume would probably not be enough to be viable in Irish markets,” says Doyle.
Following a recent High Court ruling which deemed that Subway's rolls cannot be classified as bread due to their excessive sugar content, leading Doyle to question the relationship between bread and obesity in Ireland.
When white bread is digested, flour breaks down, giving us a sugar-rush. As excessive sugar is significant contributor to weight-gain, is there a healthier, high-fibre alternative with less sugar? Could we produce more brown bread? Doyle raises other possibilities – could we start milling flour in Ireland to add diversity to kitchen tables? Could we commercially produce rye and oat breads for consumers?
Could consumer habits shift by improving the appeal of brown bread and adding different varieties to supermarket shelves?
In relation to waste, Doyle also added that with correct composting of biological food products such as bread, food waste can be used as animal feed and landfill can be avoided.
Niamh Hatchell, EPA communications officer explains that there is more than food disposal to be considered. “It takes a lot of resources to put food on our tables. Growing, processing and transporting food all use large amounts of energy and materials. When food is wasted, these resources are wasted too.”
Mary Frances Rochford, programme manager in the office of environmental sustainability explains the effect that excessive food waste has on the environment, saying: “Food waste is a significant contributor to climate change – generating about 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Therefore, the EPA is encouraging everyone to play a part in tackling food waste.
“Ambitious targets have been set in the new National Waste Policy, for food waste reduction, with the aim of halving food waste by 2030,” says Rochford.
The recent National Waste Statistics Summary Report revealed that Irish people are still putting rubbish in the wrong bins. “Diverting food waste from landfill has environmental and financial benefits, but the benefits of food waste prevention are even greater” says Hatchell.
The EPA is currently implementing a Stop Food Waste programme that encourages households to change their behaviours and develop sustainable habits that will reduce food waste in Ireland.