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The 6 Most Wasted Foods and How to Save Them from Landfill

Worried about the looming climate crisis? Read our blog to discover the 6 most wasted foods and how to save them from the trash.

In 2018, a study found that 800 million people were starving across the globe. When you think about this striking figure, it’s hard to believe that a third of all food grown for human consumption is wasted.

When food ends up in landfills and begins to decompose, it releases potent methane into the atmosphere. As one of the most significant contributors to global warming, this greenhouse gas pushes us closer to climate disaster.

In this blog, we’ve collected data from around the world to share some of the most wasted foods and our top tips on saving them from the trash.

Let’s go!

6 Top Wasted Foods

1. Potatoes

Did you know that Canada wastes a shocking 2,400,000 potatoes every year? That’s an immense amount of food, especially when you think about the recipe potential of this household favourite. While consumers are to blame for some of the potato waste, the finger mainly points towards the farming sector for this giant statistic. Crops are disposed of for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They’ve been destroyed or made inedible by insect infestation
  • They’re impacted by weeds or plant diseases
  • They’re misshapen and too ugly to hit the shelves
  • Potatoes can sprout on their own, without any soil or growing medium. Though this has no impact on flavour or nutrient benefit, homeowners often don't want to "risk it" by cooking sprouted potatoes, resulting in the tubers being thrown out needlessly.

Top Tips to Reduce Potato Waste

Although there’s not much you can do about insects or weeds from the comfort of your home, there are ways you can reduce overall potato waste. Plenty of stores and online initiatives are now selling ‘ugly veg’ to stop perfectly edible goods from ending up in landfills.

Once you’ve bagged some misshapen goodies, why not try:

  • Making a new dish with other seasonal, local produce
  • Creating soups or casseroles with any stray leftovers
  • Recycle your food scraps in a compost bin or FoodCycler

2. Bread

Get ready, it’s time for another shocker. Over 240 million slices of bread are thrown away in the UK every year. Despite bread being one of the most straightforward products to freeze, most households let the contents of their pantry go to waste. It is however susceptible to staling and spoiling, suggesting why waste is created at every stage of the bread supply chain.

Top Tips to Reduce Bread Waste

  • If you’re not going to be using your bread fresh on the day of purchase, portion it off and store it in the freezer instead
  • Stale bread isn’t the best for sandwiches, but it’s perfect for French toast, croutons, breadcrumbs or toast – get creative with your waste!
  • Never keep bread in the fridge to slow down the spoiling process; always store in the freezer or a dry pantry
  • While some folks compost their bread waste, there is always the risk that the bread scraps will attract unwanted visitors to your yard. FoodCycle your bread waste instead and turn it into fertilizer for your garden!

3. Milk

We know there’s no point crying over spilt milk, but this is an important topic that needs addressing. As a result of their limited lifespans, dairy products are some of the most wasted foods in countries worldwide. In the UK alone, 330,000 tonnes of milk is wasted each year, 90% of that figure occurring in the home.

Top Tips to Reduce Milk Waste

  • Before you go shopping, plan out how much milk you think you’ll need for recipes or drinks throughout the week and buy the proper amount
  • Check your fridge is set to the right temperature and avoid taking your milk out for extended periods
  • Freeze your milk in freeze-proof containers (avoid glass bottles if you get yours delivered)
  • Use sour milk as a replacement for buttermilk in your go-to pancake recipe (trust us – you can’t taste the difference!)

4. Cooked Leftovers

Did you know that food takes up more space in US landfills than anything else? While many people are becoming more conscious of their waste, millions of households are still cooking and binning far too much food.

Top Tips to Stop Wasting Leftovers

  • Plan your meals for the week ahead before you start shopping or cooking your next recipe. If you’re not going to get around to eating every portion, divide up your recipe so you only create what you need!
  • If you end up with extra portions after cooking, divide them into freeze-proof containers and put them in the freezer for another day
  • Made too much food? Why not ask a neighbour or family member if they’d like to sample some of your cooking?
  • FoodCycle your leftovers! Not all kitchen scraps can be composted, and using a food waste recycler is an excellent alternative to composting old food!

5. Bagged Salads

Believe it or not, bagged salads are one of the biggest landfill culprits. While they can seem like a convenient option at the time of shopping, they expire quickly and come packaged in unnecessary and often non-recyclable plastic.

Top Tips to Cut Out Bagged Salads

  • Bagged salads are expensive and expire much faster than fresh, individual vegetables. Head to your local market and buy one of each item, spend 30 minutes chopping them into a delicious salad and store them in an airtight container for the week ahead!
  • If you’re committed to bagged salads and can’t give them up, make sure to use a clip or an airtight container to keep them fresher for longer
  • If you’ve still got some leftovers that can no longer be eaten, empty out the plastic into your compost bin or FoodCycler and dispose of the bag separately

6. Cheese

Even though cheese can last for months in the right environment, it’s still one of the most wasted foods in households across the globe. One study found that families in the UK waste 2.2 million kilograms of cheese at Christmas alone – a staggering amount for a single festive holiday.

Top Tips to Reduce Cheese Waste

  • Store cheese in an airtight container or seal packaging with a clip to keep it fresher for longer, ideally in the warmest part of the fridge
  • Instead of buying pre-grated bags of cheese, opt for a larger block that will keep for a more extended period
  • Mould isn’t necessarily a bad thing – scrape it off and use the cheese for cooking macaroni cheese, lasagne sauce or your own cheesy favourites
  • You should never attempt to compost dairy products, as these will likely attract critters to your yard. Try FoodCycling your cheese waste instead!

No matter where you live or what your diet looks like, it’s essential for everyone to unite against the food waste crisis. Discover the FoodCycler blog for more waste-reducing tips, insights on the environment and ways you can do better for the planet!

A Note on Terminology

The FoodCycler® is a countertop electric food waste recycler that breaks down food scraps through a mechanical process into a dry, lightweight by-product that can be used in gardening applications as a fertilizer. The FoodCycler® and other electric food waste recyclers are not composters, nor do they produce compost or soil as they do not require additional microbes to break down food waste with bacteria. However, the term "electric composter" has been used to describe electric food waste recyclers.