Oct 31 2013

Food Waste at a Waste Composition Analysis

DSCF1907Here at Low and Behold we are always interested in getting our hands dirty and experiencing the reality of the waste industry.  In the past this has included days volunteering at a festival with the recycling crews sorting through the bins to remove any contamination from within the recycling.  Our latest endeavour was to volunteer at a waste composition analysis (WCA).

A waste composition analysis is one of the best available ways to calculate the type of materials that are thrown away and are used in a wide variety of studies carried out in the waste industry.  These analyses can look at commercial, industrial or municipal waste streams and are a really simple concept.  The rubbish is put in a pile and manually sorted into its component parts.  They can be comprehensive and look at everything from paper and card to specific types of metal and plastics or they can be much simpler and focus on a single material.  At the end of the sort each material type is weighed and the average proportion of each material type can be calculated for an average business or household unit.

The WCA that I attended was focused on the amounts of food waste thrown into the general waste bins from households and also tried to identify any food still within its packaging.  The latest figures produced by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimate that a fifth of all food and drink purchased is wasted.  By manually sorting through the rubbish it is apparent that there is still a large amount that can be done to reduce this.  While the job was certainly messy, it was very enlightening to see the large quantities of material within that could have been easily recycled, with some of the bags we sorted through containing food items that had never been opened.

Physically having to pick through the rubbish bags has shone new light on my own food waste habits.  It is sometimes far too easy to just throw things away rather than to find a use for them or even with a bit of forethought make a better purchasing decision in the beginning!


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