In the best of times, the United States wastes 40 percent of its food annually, amounting to 70 million tons. The collective response to the coronavirus pandemic, from panic buying at grocery stores to restaurant closures, is bound to inflate that percentage, food loss experts say, at a time when food insecurity is on the rise. But over 100 tons of food went to waste in 2 weeks due to panic buyers.
The biggest source of food waste in America is households, where produce wilts, milk spoils, and leftovers lurk at the back of the fridge until they are tossed. Now, anxious consumers who have been hoarding food may discover there’s no way they can eat everything they’ve bought. Says Frank Franciosi, of the U.S. Composting Council, “We may see the municipal curbside collection of food waste go up as more people eat in or take out.”
AD operators could see “avalanche” of food waste from coronavirus panic buying
Anaerobic digestion (AD) plant operators could soon be working at maximum capacity, due to an increase in food waste as a result of panic buying.
Pump manufacturer Landia has said that AD and biogas plant operators could see “an avalanche of food” coming to their facilities, as those worried about coronavirus over-purchase food.
Howard Burton, the technical sales engineer at Landia, said: “The industry needs feedstock, but as panic buyers begin to regret overloading their supermarket trolleys with too many perishables, the sudden rush of food waste may arrive at AD plants at an even bigger rate than the post-Christmas wave of unwanted goods.”
According to Burton, industry operators must invest in high-quality equipment, such as pumps, in order to deal with the influx of waste. Not doing so, warns Burton, could cause equipment to become blocked, or digesters becoming weighed down with packaging waste, grit and plastics, thus affecting biogas yields.
“It's a tough industry where the learning never stops,” said Burton. “But at this, extremely testing time for the world, some AD and biogas operators who used food waste as a feedstock are going to find it very difficult to keep everything as balanced as possible o manage their processes. The torrent of food waste from panic buying isn't far away.”
Five ways to reduce food waste
So, how can you do your bit during lockdown to make those groceries go just a little bit further? Here are five creative and delicious ways to use up those food scraps that would go straight in the bin otherwise. Don't contribute to the over 100 tons of food waste in 2 weeks due to panic buyers.
Use up broccoli stems
We usually chuck out broccoli stalks without a second thought – but these actually have as much nutritional value as the florets. Try blending up the entire head of broccoli for a flavorsome soup, steaming along with the florets, cut up into matchsticks or shred for a salad. If you've got a spiraliser on hand, you can also make an easy noodle replacement.
Make chicken or vegetable stock
Home-made stock is the perfect base for so many winter comfort meals. You can use leftover beef or chicken bones, save them up in a container in the fridge or freeze them if you're waiting to make your stock. Chuck in some vegetables, water and onion for flavour and let it simmer away for a tasty base to your winter soups – like this winter carrot soup.
For a vegetarian stock, freeze vegetable scraps as you go and then boil up for a few hours with water, salt, and pepper.
Roast leftover pumpkin seeds
When you're scraping the seeds out of your pumpkin the next time you make soup, set aside the seeds. You can roast them as they are or add some flavour, either sweet or savoury. They're great as a healthy snack or delicious scattered over breakfast porridge. Try out this recipe from the Food Waste Doctor Lilly Da Gama on Instagram.
Homemade apple cider vinegar
You can make your own homemade apple cider vinegar from the peels and cores of apples. Save them up in the freezer and then boil up and strain. As a bonus, apple cider vinegar is a great sore throat remedy.
Make chips from the vegetable peel
Next time you're roasting vegetables and find yourself with a stack of leftover peelings, why not put them to good use by turning them into chips? You can turn them into a tasty snack by tossing them on to a baking tray with a dash of oil, salt and some seasoning. Potato and kumara peelings work well – and for a sweet option, try apple peels with cinnamon and a little brown sugar.
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