Hertfordshire councillor suggests washing food less would cut greenhouse gases

Cllr Graham McAndrew made the suggestion at a meeting of the council’s environment cabinet panel

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:38 pm

Conservative county councillor Graham McAndrew has suggested residents wash fewer fruit and vegetables – to help the environment.

At a meeting of the council’s environment cabinet panel on Friday, September 10, he highlighted the amount of water used to wash food nationwide.

And during a discussion on the collection of household waste, he highlighted the impact that washing food had on the environment.

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The image has been used for illustrative purposes (C) Getty Images

“If everyone in the UK stopped washing food at home for just one day, it would have the same impact on greenhouse gases as planting half a million trees,” said Cllr McAndrew, who represents the Bishop’s Stortford Rural division

“Now we are all keen to plant trees – so maybe we need to stop washing so much food.”

Stepping back to highlight the amount of food that is thrown away, he said: “And it takes 65 billion litres of water to grow the potatoes we waste at home every year.

“So if we take a step back and look at the food that we actually waste we can have a really big impact.”

The disposal of food waste was highlighted as part of a report on the collection – and disposal – of waste by the county in 2020/21.

According to the report the council disposed of around 540,000 tonnes of waste in 2020/21 – with just over half of that (52.4 per cent) being recycled.

The council’s head of waste management Matt King told councillors that most district and borough councils now collected food waste separately.

Nevertheless he said that data showed that food waste still accounted for between 18 and 22 per cent of the contents of residual waste bins too.

In areas where there was no separate collection of food waste he suggested that could be in excess of 30 per cent.

And at the meeting he said food waste was a particular issue ‘that needed to be grappled with’.

Meanwhile at the same meeting Conservative Cllr David Andrews, who is not a member of the panel, spoke of the the power of the consumer – particularly with regard to polystyrene and excessive packaging in supermarkets.

“We as consumers have some very considerable input to this through feeding back, through ourselves and up through the government,” he said.

Cllr Andrews recounted his own experience of buying a TV in the UK a couple of years ago, which he said came surrounded in ‘the dreaded polystyrene’, which he said was ‘the very devil to produce and worse to dispose of’.

But he said a similar product purchased in Germany would be packed in egg box style compressed cardboard, that would ‘break down’ and could be ‘burned and release quite a bit of calorific value’.

“In Germany you can’t wrap things in polystyrene , because the people in Germany have made it clear they are not going to accept it,” he said.

“And we must start to educate within our own communities and say, ‘pay that extra 50p’, ‘pay that extra £1’ – ‘don’t be confused by the once only today offer’, ‘don’t buy stuff surrounded by packaging’.”

And pointing to the power of consumer behaviour, he revealed: “I took to leaving packaging in supermarkets some years ago – if it was unnecessary, I left it at the end of the till.

“I suggest we start thinking about doing that again – you would be surprised how quickly the supermarkets switch on to the fact that you do that.”

The meeting of the county council’s environment cabinet panel on Friday, September 10 can be viewed at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/watchmeetings.