Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 4 June 2009

Love Food, Hate Waste training day, what an eye opener!

Well, I was invited to attend this training , as I am a Master Composter (a community Compost Advisor working to promote home composting) and I thought it sounded interesting and a complementary activity to my "compost your compostibles" campaign....

I had to keep a food waste diary for a week before the training day (which was very interesting and informative, it turns out we don't really waste any food BUT largely beacuse I have "birds" and cats to feed odd scraps to, and we compost EVERY SCRAP which can be composted..so we came out as unusually low food wasters....as did all my fellow Master Composters and Council Waste Officers on this course! ( not a big suprise there, all the MC's are dedicated RRR people as are the wonderful council officers!)

The training was really good we learnt lots of useful stuff , had a really nice lunch and networked like crazy! AND learned a lot as the course detail was vey good and informative.....I found myself speechless ( seriously!) several times during the presentations and the later role play scenarios....

Here are some extracts from the (properly assessed) studies done by WRAP ..I asked some quite hard questions about this and am satisfied the study was pretty well organised!

In the UK in general

Total food waste = 6.7 million tonnes PER YEAR in the UK

Read that again..6.7 MILLION TONNES PER YEAR!!!!

Which breaks down to ...

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes 61%
Possibly avoidable food waste = 1.3 million tonnes 20%
Unavoidable food waste = 1.3 million tonnes( peelings etc) 19%
Which OF COURSE should be composted!

Foods thrown away whole and untouched every day

Potatoes 5.1 million a day
Sausages 1.2 million a day
Slices of bread 7 million a day
Yoghurt & yoghurt drinks 1.3 million a day
Apples 4.4 million a day
Half of the salad we eat !

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes (£10.2 billion)

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes (£10.2 billion)
“cooked or prepared too much” 1.3 mt (£3.4 billion)
“left & unused” 2.6 mt (£6.3 billion)
“unknown” 0.2 mt (£0.5 billion)

“left & unused” -


“less than ideal” location
 bread in the fridge (11%)
 bananas in the fridge (6%)
 apples outside the fridge (74%)

 sliced meats unsealed after opening (13%)
 dried foods unsealed after opening (11%)
 cheese unsealed after opening (7%)

Incorrect fridge temperature
 60% don’t know what it should be (average is 6.6°C vs. target of <5 data-blogger-escaped-br=""> Lack of knowledge about what can be frozen
 Not making sufficient use of the freezer

Date labelling
 Food “gone past its date” is the main reason given for throwing away food
 Almost 50% do not understand the meaning of date labels (FSA, 2008)
 36% treat “best before” as a “use-by”
 53% never eat past the date for fruit & veg
 56% never eat past the date for bread & cakes

 “use by” = use by end of that date
 Almost 10% leave a days “buffer”
 21% will not “take a risk” with a product close to its date, even if it appears fine

Cost per household per year ( ie this is what could be saved if you didn't do this kind of thing...)

average households with children £610

Households of adults £380

Households of unrelated sharers £520

Single occupant households £250

WOW that is a LOT of dosh!

A really thought provoking fact..... food waste is the equivalent of 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide

That is the same as produced by one 1 in 5 cars on the road! THINK about it!

Also it is no good blaming "the old" " the young" etc....

As age isn’t really an influence, we’re all wasting food! 1.2kg/person/week…

nor is Household composition, Household with children is the same as a household with just adults (per capita)…

and nor is Household size! Only significant difference is single households at 1.9

We’re all wasting food! BUT 84% of us believe we throw none or hardly any food away!

So...doing this training means I now have a better idea why so much food is wasted and I can help people get the very best from the food they have shelled out their hard earned money for...

How to store it so it lasts, how to cook just the right amount, how to store any leftovers and use them up next day and how to perhaps shop so as to minimise waste!

all this AND save cash and eat good food as well!

If you are interested in this, see Love Food Hate Waste for more details!

I shall certainly be adding the LFHW leaflets and banners to my composting related stalls over the summer!

Being a food lover means getting the most from the food I buy. It is not about having gourmet cook intentions, but about being grounded in everyday simple actions that can help me manage and cook my food so that more gets eaten and less gets wasted.
It pays on so many levels – I save money, feel better and more confident, save time and I help the environment too.

The habits of a food lover
1. Check fridge first - try to make a shopping list ( and stick to it!)
2. Keeping food fresh - most fruit is best in the fridge, but bananas are better outside of it.
3. Judging the right amount – get a mug for rice - work out a measure which works for your circumstances! Use a spagetti "hole" to portion what you need in one go!
4. Freezing and frozen foods –what freezes & for how long? If you grow your own or buy in bulk, how to best store it? Open freezing? Dehydrating? Bottling? jamming? pickling?
5. Use-By and best before – what needs eating first? Learn! Be more self reliant! Sniff and look and trust your judgement BUT be aware of Use by dates for meat and dairy etc as they are there for a very good reason ( to stop you getting food poinioning)
6. Free-lunching – taking well stored leftover food outside the home to eat for lunch the next day ( mmm yum! I LOVe pasta salad next day...)
7. Leftovers – new meals from leftovers, store them correctly to be safe!
8. In-store – frozen v fresh/ right size of pack/ offers - are they as a good a deal as they seem?

For more information on food waste
Love Food Hate Waste www.lovefoodhatewaste.com


  1. Thought provoking statistics. I know I am not happy with how much food we don't get around to eating, even if it goes into the compost bins. Most of it is poor organization- not freezing left overs immediately; eating snacks that would last before we eat the perishables.
    Thanks for the needed reminders.

  2. There was an advert on television last night in between the River Cottage programme,it showed some daft lady spraying her kitchen with air freshner left right & centre,bleeeurrggh cough yuck,anyhow she opened the bin....in order to spray the miracle freshner in(how many eejits run out & buy this stuf??) & insde the bin I swear! was a raw chicken leg joint & other food that looked as if it needed to be cooked not be in a bin???!?

    argggG!!! Stupid wasteful people!! we have a tiny bin under the sink,the sort most would have in a bedroom,its been there 3 days so far,isnt full,isnt smelling,because theres very little in it.

    Infuriates me that folks waste so much,rant ranty rant! lol!
    GTM x

  3. Hello!

    GTM, you get it off your chest...I am with you 100%....

    Joanne, I found the same sort of thing, just because I compost all the leftovers doesn't mean there couldn't be less of some of them!

  4. Thanks for the great post and you know how much food waste is one of my soapbox moments!

    We're continuing with our food waste friday, as this helps me be more accountable.

    Last night I made curry and fried rice; all from 'leftovers' which would otherwise have been thrown away.
    Now I've got into the habit of not answering 'what's for tea?' until I've checked in the 'fridge to see what needs using up. ;)

    Shocking figures though and I can't help but feel that the money side of things is UNDER estimated. I feel sad that half the world is starving, yet we throw all this stuff away - so sad...

    Lots more education is needed, especially with the difference between use by and best before dates.

    did you see my review of the 'count on it' labels? I too shared that we need to trust ourselves more - ya know, sniff, look, tentatively taste instead of relying on the manufacturer's guidelines. Geesh ....

    Anyway, thank you again - this was good reading :) Will be sharing it on twitter ..

  5. What a brilliant and informative posts, a real eye opener.

    I'm sure however good we all think we are there's always some room for improvement.

    Sue xx

  6. A food waste diary - good idea. I don't think we waste much, especially with our composter, but a diary would show me the truth.

  7. Hi, what shocking food waste statistics. Thanks for the links ... :0)

  8. I HATE food waste and like GTM only have a small bin under the sink that takes days to fill. I've just been to check said bin and the only food items in it are some chicken bones which I can't compost or feed to the dogs. The rest is non-recyclable plastics. Food made from left-overs is one of my favourites ways of cooking - frugal and yummy at the same time. I really do believe we throw minimal food away but if I remember I'll keep a throw-away diary for a week and see the results.
    Rosie x

  9. That was really eye-opening for me, and amazing as I didn't know how prevalent food waste is. I think that I do a pretty good job with avoiding food waste based on the fact that I don't fill up a garbage bag for about 3 weeks.... but part of that may be because I see how much work goes into growing and then storing food throughout the year, I can't bear to waste even a small amount of it. My storage apples in February, for example, are too precious to let one go to rot, so checking them becomes a priority!
    But with that said, it is still something that I and everyone else I think need to keep in mind, as its easy to slip if one is not mindful. I really had no idea about the enormity of the issue until this post.

  10. The amount of food wastage is shocking and astronomical. My friend who works in a supermarket tells me things get thrown away because of reasons like a multipack is open (so it contains 11 bags instead of 12- the lot gets thrown!) and things which are perfectly edible being thrown because of lack of space. It's quite frightening, really.


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