Three of Ireland’s Top Chefs Pledge Support to the EPA’s Stop Food Waste Movement

51% of Irish people admit to throwing out food regularly

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today (Tuesday 23rd November 2010) launched the STOP Food Waste Movement leveraging support from 3 of the country’s top chefs, Rachel Allen, Kevin Thornton and Donal Skehan. The three well-known chefs took time out to get behind the movement and encourage others to do so to, as they demonstrated how to prepare reduced waste meals whilst providing tips on how to shop for and prepare food in the most cost effective and sustainable way possible. The event took place at Fallon & Byrne in Dublin.

To coincide with the launch the EPA also announced the results of a national research survey of 1100 people conducted by STOP Food Waste, a programme developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The survey found that 51% of Irish people throw away food regularly. In fact, 30% of the food we buy ends up in the bin, costing up to €1,000 per household per year in food waste. The STOP Food Waste programme is funded under the EPA National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP) where waste prevention is the preferred waste management option in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch event in Dublin Rachel Allen said, ‘I have chosen to become involved in the Stop Food Waste Campaign because it’s something I’m really passionate about. We have all been guilty of wasting food at some point and it’s all too easily done with busy and demanding schedules, but with just a bit of extra thought and some forward planning, we can definitely all avoid it.’

Despite almost all respondents (97%) admitting to being bothered about throwing out food, almost half (45%) of those surveyed are doing little or nothing to prevent it.  The average person throws out almost 300kg of black bin rubbish each year, and about one third of this waste is food waste.  This is the equivalent of 3,750 apples. Research suggests that f we managed to prevent generating some of this waste and also composted and recycled at home we could reduce our rubbish by almost 70%.

“Stopping food waste starts at the point at which you buy your groceries.  It continues in your home to where you store and cook what you have bought.  At each of these stages food waste can be avoided and that is what the STOP Food Waste Movement is all about,” said Odile Le Bolloch, Stop Food Waste Spokesperson with the EPA. “A top tip to avoid food waste is to make a list of what you throw out over the next week. You’ll be surprised to see just how much you waste and this is guaranteed to make you sit up and take notice!”

The extensive survey also revealed the main foods that are regularly thrown out in Irish homes are fruits  –  apples, bananas and grapes, and vegetables  –  lettuce, potatoes, and carrots. Other foods regularly thrown out include bread and bread rolls, condiments (spreads, jams, relishes, sauces), yoghurts, dairy desserts and food leftovers.

“This type of food waste can be avoided by either not over purchasing in the first place, or finding ways of incorporating the over supply into meals or drinks – such as smoothies, in the case of fruit, or soup in the case of vegetables. If you discover you’ve over purchased on bread you can always freeze it for later use,” advises Odile.

Research results showed that large amounts of food are being thrown away due to poor food storage practices. While there is a good understanding of the importance of keeping meat, dairy and food leftovers in the fridge, other foods, such as fruits, jams, jellies and sauces once opened are often left in the cupboards, shelves and fruit bowls which shortens the shelf life.  Almost one third of the respondents to the survey (29%) admitted that they do not research and follow the recommended storage information on packaged goods and subsequently are throwing the food away as it becomes mouldy and stale.

While over 80% of Irish people are aware that the majority of fruit should be kept cool in order to extend its shelf life, 42% of Irish people are still storing fruits and vegetables in fruit bowls. On the other hand, some fruit and veg such as bananas, pineapples and onions are best stored outside of the fridge but the survey revealed that some people were unaware of this – 19% of people surveyed said they store these fruits in the fridge. “ provides a wealth of information and tips about how to avoid food waste, and the facebook link will be regularly updated to provide further information and tips as well as encouraging the public to interact and share their own tips and zero waste food recipes online,” said Odile.

STOP Food Waste research showed that almost half of Irish people (46%) buy more food than needed when shopping.  Subsequently, the most common reason for throwing out food is not consuming it before use-by dates. This is further evidence that planning ahead and smart shopping can prevent food waste and save money! The majority of survey respondents (93%) agreed that they would change their shopping habits if it saved them money and if they were equipped with shopping and recipe tips.

More than half of Irish people  (60%) generally tend to plan ahead and use a shopping list when shopping for food, research also found that only one third of those (32%) using a shopping list stick to it. Most shoppers get distracted by Special Offers, in fact, 85% of all people surveyed said they avail of ‘2 for 1’ offers on food products.

“This is a common trap that people fall into when they shop and they see something that represents value for money. We are not suggesting that people do not avail of 2 for 1 offers, but instead as part of the Stop Food Waste Movement, we hope to communicate how you can avail of special offers by creating meals with the second batch and freeze them for use at a later date,” said Odile.

The STOP Food Waste programme is funded under the EPA National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP). Waste Prevention is the preferred waste management option in Ireland. By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services. In light of the significant issues arising from the disposal of food waste, and the realisation of the costs associated with this, the NWPP Prevention Plan 2009-2012 set out to promote food waste prevention and home composting. TOP SHOPPING TIPS!

  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry – you’ll buy more than you need!
  • If you are shopping for the week try and plan your meals ahead.
  • Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping and plan meals around what you find.
  • Then make a shopping list…and try to stick to it!
  • Beware of special deals – these are great for toilet rolls and shampoo but bad for fruit, veg and salads (anything that is best eaten fresh). These are the things we buy because of a “good deal” but often do not get eaten.
  • Try and buy loose fruit and veg – you get what you need and can cut down on packaging waste in your bin as well.
  • Check use-by dates to avoid buying food that might get thrown out if not eaten immediately.
  • Poke around at the back of shelves – you’ll often find ‘use-by dates’ that are further away.
  • Shop for what you actually eat, not for what you want/wish you would eat (e.g. “I am going to be really healthy this week and eat lots of yogurts!”) and then not eat them!
  • If it’s an option for you, try shopping online for the basics – you get what you want and save money by not being tempted to buy more on visual impulse.

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