Monday, 15 October 2012

Thoughts on the nature of waste

The Marmalade Cottage CWA (that's Alice, Marion, Nancy, Joan, Joyce and Shirley, all of whom have feathers and lay eggs) are getting a little particular in what they eat.

Not for them ordinary white bread!

They love green feed - cabbage, lettuce, juicy weeds, kale, broad bean pods and so on, and they're fond of the crusts and stale leftovers of our home-baked bread.  Several times a week, a reinventor detours by the crate at the back of our local greengrocer, where the scraps are left.

Usually there's a bag's worth of cabbage or celery or lettuce for the taking.  There are a number of chook owners who take advantage of this.

Next to the chook scrap crate, there's a skip.  Depending on the day, there are all sorts of extras in reach.  And this bothers the reinventors greatly.  This skip (dumpster to the Americans) contains an enormous amount of perfectly edible food.

Last night, it yielded a cob of corn, two zucchini, two parsnips and some carrots.  There are often half melons (the chooks adore those), and bread, sometimes potatoes and sweet potatoes, very often bananas.

There are two points here: this food might look slightly soiled, perhaps with a brown spot or two, but it's by no means unsafe; and putting this kind of organic matter into landfill results in emissions of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

So, by taking this food out of the skip and giving it to the chooks or eating it ourselves, we save the planet a bit more destruction, we respect the grower and we save a little money.  Sadly, stupid things like health regulations are against us here.

The practical reinventor has lost count of the number of banana cakes she's baked with bananas from the bin.

(if you're interested: cream 4 oz butter with 4 oz sugar, then stir in two eggs.  In another bowl, dissolve half a teaspoon of bicarb soda in a tablespoon of milk, then mash in two to three bananas and a dribble of vanilla extract.  Add banana mixture to sugar and butter, then sift in 8 oz self-raising flour.  Bake 45 minutes in a 180 deg C oven.  Apologies for the mix of imperial and metric measurements, it's my great-nana's recipe, and the metric conversion is messy)

If you caught the English series The People's Supermarket by chef Arthur Potts Dawson, you'd understand about the staggering amount of food that is simply thrown away.  It needn't be.  Home growers don't do this because we understand the effort and resources that go into producing food.  But if you don't produce your own food, if you've only ever bought it, it's hard to see what goes on behind the scenes and make the connection between production and consumption.

So here's a thought: have a look in the bin behind a supermarket or greengrocer and consider what you see in there in the context of world inequality.

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