Where food is consumed makes a difference to how waste can be managed. Post-consumer waste, like that of students at the primary and secondary schools discussed in my previous post, is managed by relying on the public to dispose of their own rubbish. The role of the everyday consumer in the management of organic waste is vital as they are the first step in its handling and disposal. (Glucksmann & Wheeler 2015)
A large contribution to this waste was the students’ behaviour in the lunchroom. Staff reported that they don’t like the food served, are fussy eaters and don’t want to eat healthy food. This is rather normal for children to have strong likes and dislikes in regards to food and it would be very difficult to change their preferences quick enough to make significant impact on the amount of food left over. What can be changed faster is the way the children are thought to handle their rejected food items.
“Waste- once produced and generated by us… must be treated as our own. It is therefore our responsibility to society and to the planet to discard of such waste… in a responsible and productive way.” (Tang 2008) Students should be more active in how they manage their waste, seeing it through from start to its final destination. By taking responsibility into their own hands and truly owning their own waste they will be thinking critically about the impact it can have, both positive and negative.
I propose donation to food relief organisations alongside education about food insecurity and the function of such food relief charities within their local community as the school’s alternative to sending their food waste to landfill. While lacking a palette for all the food groups, children are certainly not without empathy. Through the use of posters on prominent display in the lunchroom, clear signage on bins, messages in the school newsletter, talks from visiting organisations and classroom discussion, students may be taught to think about what their rejects will mean to another.
Once finished with their food trays the children would normally go directly to the rubbish bin to dispose of what they have left over in either the recycling or normal waste bins. Instead, remembering the class talks and seeing the notices displayed around the lunchroom, the students will use a third location to drop off any untouched, packaged food items such as sandwiches, dessert cups and bags of fruit, to be collected at the end of the day by a representative of a food charity organisation and then distributed to other people in the community experiencing food insecurity.
There are many food relief charities operating in the UK who would only benefit from extra donations. FoodCycle operates by going out and picking up their food donations from places such as grocery stores and businesses on each occasion. (FoodCycle 2016) If the local schools were added to their list of collection locations the food waste would be kept out of landfill, put to far better use by feeding those in need and students made aware of the organic food waste problem and it’s possible solutions from a young age.
FoodCycle 2016, FoodCycle: building communitites through food, video recording, Vimeo, Viewed 11 June 2016, <https://vimeo.com/164229949>
Glucksmann, M. & Wheeler, K. 2015, Household Recycling and Consumption Work, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, UK
Tang, K. 2008, ‘Addressing the global problem of waste’, in K. Tang & J. Yeoh (eds.), WASTEnomics, Middlesex University Press, London, pp. 3-15