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How your used tea bag can save the world

This year, the theme for Recycle Week ties in with our main focus: reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint.

Iain Gulland | 26 Sep 19

Food waste has a dramatic impact on the planet and in Scotland we waste an estimated 987,890 tonnes every year. We can’t keep growing, making and transporting food just for it to go to waste.

The energy stored in any uneaten food has the potential to help mitigate climate change – if it’s recycled.

Now I know emptying the caddy might not be the most pleasant job, but when we consider the world-changing impacts that using a recycling caddy can have on the planet then it should become an essential and accessible tool for fighting climate change.

In the news we have heard, and will continue to hear, repeated warnings about the climate crisis and how we need to take action. Professor Sir Ian Boyd, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Chief Scientific Advisor, recently urged people to make small changes to our lifestyle to combat climate change, from buying only what you need and travelling less.

It’s this sentiment that we can all have a big impact by making small changes which I think rings true. Our newly launched Corporate Plan highlights the power of individuals to drive forward progress. Recycling food waste is one, and probably the easiest way, individuals can make a difference.

We’ve already seen what collective action on recycling can do. Scotland’s food waste recycling from households and businesses has risen in recent years – up 40% from 2013 to 2017. This record level of interest in recycling has prevented 41,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere, which is equal to taking 22,004 cars off the road in the UK for a year.

But what if all of Scottish households with food waste caddies recycled their food waste?

Around 40% of the 600,000 tonnes of food waste produced by households in Scotland every year is unavoidable. These are items we can’t avoid throwing out, like tea bags, banana skins, coffee grounds and peelings. While a banana skin is not an ideal addition to your breakfast, it still has inherent value and can be converted into sustainable energy when put in the recycling caddy.

When food waste goes to landfill, it doesn’t just sit there. Rotting food waste creates methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. Recycling food waste converts it into a source of clean, renewable energy, helping Scotland to reach net-zero emissions target by 2045. What’s more, food waste can also be used as compost or fertiliser used to grow more food.

This Recycle Week, we’ve heard from bloggers about how they fit food waste recycling into their busy lives. Whether you’re a young professional always on-the-go or a parent with a lot to juggle, you can make a big difference by making a small change in the way you dispose of your food waste. Like Wee Slice and Less Waste Laura, they’ve found that things, like emptying the caddy regularly and using up ingredients to cut down on food waste, helps to get past the initial concerns of smell and cleanliness.

During Recycle Week we’ve been working to inform people about the importance of recycling food waste along with other materials like paper and plastic. Just like these other materials, unavoidable food waste and uneaten food can be recycled. This simple task of making the most of the materials we already have goes a long way in the fight against climate change.

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