The United Kingdom produces more food waste than any other country in Europe despite having the third largest population. In fact, the UK throws away almost 15 million tonnes of food waste each year, equal to tossing 1.3 billion meals in the garbage.
Not only does this massive food loss cost the UK over £19 billion each year, but our environment pays a heavy cost as well.
Working to decrease the disastrous amount of food waste, the UK’s Sharing Economy is finding creative and effective ways to lower food waste and save our environment. Supper clubs are just one solution the Sharing Economy devised to cut food waste.
“Such a problem,” said Rosie Llewellyn of food waste, chef of A Little Lusciousness pop-up restaurant. “People need to learn how to plan and store their food properly in order to reduce this. Supermarkets should get rid of packaging so that people can just buy what they need not a predetermined sized pack.”
After many successful supper clubs, Llewellyn has grown accustomed to the cooking only what is needed and mastering the correct portion size for each plate. Now, the only food waste from her events include the leftovers on the plate.
“I try and calculate my portioning quite tightly, so there is minimal wastage here. Because people book in advance and I know exactly how many dinners I will have at table, this is significantly less than an ordinary restaurant,” said Jude Skipwith, chef of The Literary Hour.
“Far, far more than the money wastage, it is the idea of food wastage that eats away at me,” said Skipwith. “I can’t stand throwing food away so will ordinarily serve up seconds and thirds and send people home with doggie bags.”
Do these food waste bins make a difference?
Yes – the food waste travels to a composting factory, decomposes until it is mature, and is then used to improve farmland across the UK. This material from food waste replaces artificial fertilizer used in farmland, and this new fertilizer is so nutrient-rich that it is no longer considered waste.
As waste biodegrades, it releases methane – a harmful greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, composting factories capture and clean this methane from food waste and use it to produce electricity.
Based on the EPA’s (Evironmental Protection Agency) approximations, 1 ton of decomposed food waste will produce 65 kg of methane (CH4). If the methane is captured and used to make electricity with 100% efficiency, you would end up with 1,000 kWh of power, which is enough to power about 1,000 homes.
So how big of a difference does this actually make?
A huge difference. Right now, £60 each month is spent on food thrown away by the average household, equal to trashing nearly 1 meal per day. With about 30 days per month and 3 meals per day, this breaks down to 67pp lost to food waste per meal.
Already, one supper club meal is a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative because of reduced food waste. That Hungry Chef, featuring chef Pratap Chahal, produces approximately 5 litres of food waste that costs about £6.
Therefore, one supper club event for 16 diners saves £4.33 and 6 litres of food waste from landfills compared to homemade meals.
If a supper club like this took place every day, £1,597.99 and 2,190 litres would be saved on food waste. Environmentally, this saves approximate 100 kg of methane from entering the environment. This methane can then be converted into enough energy to power 1,500 homes, which is equal to the amount of energy that can be produced by a wind turbine.
If 500 supper clubs of this size (or 500 dining experiences with this level of food waste efficiency) occurred every day for an entire year, enough power would be generated to power the city of South Cambridgeshire. And, about £800,000 would be saved!
Beside food waste, supper club offer other sustainable perks to the London environment.
Supper clubs provide another environmental benefit: space optimization. Instead of building another building to host events (which costs hundreds of tonnes in carbon dioxide gas emissions and thousands of pounds), supper clubs use preexisting spaces to host dinners in and around unique London locations, thereby saving money and energy.
Nationally, construction produces over 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Construction of the average 2-bedroom house requires approximately 6 million litres of water and 80 of carbon dioxide gas emissions. Because hosting a supper club requires zero construction, more pop-ups in and around London reduces carbon dioxide emissions and the cost of construction.
Supper club chefs also make an effort to recycle rather than toss materials into the disposal. These include empty wine and beer bottles and packaging. Chefs also reduce waste by using materials that can be washed or recycled – no plastic baggies, dishwasher-save plates, and minimize the nappies.
Supper clubs play an important role in the sharing of human, physical, and intellectual resources in London, but they are not alone in their mission for a better UK.
Other Sharing Economy companies have already made London a more environmentally-friendly city and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Liftshare – essentially a carpooling company in London – has done just that. With over 700 companies taking advantage of this opportunity, sharing trips has reduced 5,600 tonnes of CO2 weekly (291,200 annually), which is enough energy to power 43,004 homes for a year.
Together with government and businesses desiring to better our environment, The Sharing Economy has been making strides toward a healthier and more environmental UK. ◊