How Guardian

You highlight once again the massive problem of food waste, with one third of produce thrown away (Report, 21 August). A large part of this is due to supermarket special offers such as three for the price of two, which pressure people to buy more than they need. How much of supermarkets’ profits are made by persuading people to buy too much food, which either increases the problem of obesity or of food waste? It is time to consider making this type of special offer illegal.
Dudley Miles
London

God Forbid the oiks get cheaper food because reasons….

And as to profits – offering more goods for the same price is usually not entirely profit enhancing. Secondary effects might be, greater footfall, advertising, reputation for bargains, getting rid of soon to be out of date stock, all those sorts of things. But offering more goods for the same money not so much, not directly.

In fact, if we account for it straightforwardly, profits purely on selling at regular price v profits on selling 3 for 2, we’d probably find that between none and a negative portion of profits come from such deals.

But, you know, So, So, Guardian

73 thoughts on “How Guardian”

  1. “One third of produce thrown away”

    I simply do not believe this factoid

    It may be true within the M25, but outside in the real world people simply do not waste food

  2. I’m calling bollocks on the food waste thing. In my life, here and in the west, wasting food is a sin. My wife calls it that too.

    In my community, waste (non recycleable stuff) is dumped twice a week in transparent plastic sacks. I don’t spend a lot of time or effort inspecting my neighbour’s waste but its mostly packaging and tea leaves. Thin pickings for any vagrant looking for a meal.

    I don’t buy the supermarket waste either. Supermarkets are all about cost control, and waste is a cost.

    What has happened here is some greenie has done a trivial piece of research, found some waste and extrapolated it across the nation. For the Grudinad that’s all it takes. A combination of deplorables (too stupid) and big business (evil) and the smug have a story.

  3. If the Guardianistas succeed in banning plastic packaging the food wastage will be far higher than a third!
    Whom will they blame for that?

  4. Maritime Barbarian

    They may be counting the wonky or substandard veg that’s thrown away.
    Put it on the shelf, though, at a low price, and the outrage would be incandescent.

  5. You all don’t understand. There a ‘charity’ which was set up to monitor waste. If there wasn’t a waste problem, there wouldn’t be a charity. Stands to reason. IF that charity might produce deceptive or downright dishonest figures for waste isn’t that for the overall good?

    No, I don’t believe the figures either. I note that a couple of years ago when the Graun did this story it was Tesco’s fault for throwing away food.. I was not able to read far enough (it was the Guardian) to see whether three for two was the solution, then.

  6. As the green Grauniadstasi are determined to have us living the lives of thirteenth century peasants “to save the planet”, why aren’t they recommending thirteenth century remedies to food waste ie give it to the porker the family is fattening up for winter food. Oops I forgot they want us to be vegans as well! And battalions of H&S officers would probably thwart that.

  7. Aren’t bogofs usually on processed shit like crisps, rather than things with a short shelf life?

  8. Rhoda – Ding the moral entrepreneurs out there can spot an opportunity. They’re not in the business of preventing wastage – that would be those who produce, distribute and market food. They’re in the business of guilting people and companies into doing something that wastes more time, resources, money than it saves.

  9. You can guarantee that the “one third thrown away” will be based on dodgy as fuck assumptions, i.e. counting bones as ‘food’, measuring on weight rather than calorific value, for example. Lots and lots of dishonest things like this buried in the works.

    All you will be allowed to see is the headline, and the serried ranks of state-funded wankers lining up to promote it.

  10. “A large part of this is due to supermarket special offers such as three for the price of two, which pressure people to buy more than they need”

    Does the writer have any evidence for this whatsoever?

    My guess would be that the 3-for-2 buyers are more organised and careful with their money, so would be unlikely to waste.

  11. “And as to profits – offering more goods for the same price is usually not entirely profit enhancing.”

    Let’s make some numbers up for illustration.

    We rent the shop premises and pay one member of staff, and all the electricity, repairs, advertising, etc. for an average of £73k per year or £200 per day. We’ve got 100 feet of shelf space, so we ‘charge’ £2/foot-day ‘shelf rent’ on the goods along each foot of shelf.

    We buy widgets wholesale at £1 each, and sell 10 a week from a one-foot length of shelf. That’s £10 wholesale cost, plus £14 shelf rent, plus 10% profit, meaning we charge £2.64 each.

    Now we put them on buy-two-get-one-free, meaning we’re effectively only charging £1.76 each. We sell 100 in the week of the sale as all the bargain-hunters stock up. (Yeah, I know it’s not a multiple of 3, but let’s approximate!) So we’ve taken in £176 at the till, paid £100 wholesale for them, and charged the same £14 shelf rent, since we’re selling them from the same one-foot section of shelf. They cost us £114 and we sold them for £176 giving us 54% profit. Nice!

    Costs related to items for sale can be per-item or per-day. So the price you need to charge to make a profit depends on how quickly you can sell them. The purpose of sales is to dramatically increase the rate of sale, making the goods cheaper so you still make a profit. There are only so many people out there willing to buy at any given price. At a price of £2.64 each, 520 people would buy 10 a week. If dropping the price to £1.76 increases that number to 610, it’s not enough to justify it. You would only sell 12 a week (rounding up), take £21.12 at the till, but be paying £12 wholesale and £14 shelf rent for them giving £26 costs. Not worth it. But if you can grab those extra 90 paying customers by having a once-a-year sale, cramming them all into the same week, that very much *is* worth it.

    There are, of course, all those secondary effects, too. More people coming into the store for the sale, more people trying it because they see it on offer and deciding they like it after all, and getting rid of excess stock are all worthwhile and contribute to profits. But sales make money directly, through increasing the rate of sales and thus reducing the shelf rent per item.

    It’s always annoyed me that they don’t teach this stuff at school, in maths classes. It’s pretty basic. It would be actually *useful* for anyone wanting to go into business. And it would prevent a lot of the public outcry over ‘the horrors of capitalism’ that the socialists keep pushing. Virtually nobody needs to know how many sides a dodecahedron has got. Everybody needs to know how shops and prices and the system that runs their economy works. Especially if they get to vote for the people with proposals on how to ‘fix’ it. But I guess we all know why nobody is going to reform the maths curriculum this way any time soon.

  12. A good deal of the ‘thrown away’ stuff is input to animal feed production. The Guardianistas, not being familiar with life outside the M25, imagine that ‘not consumed by humans’ means not profitably used in any other way.

  13. That charity, WRAP, turns out to get almost all of its income from central, devolved and local governments. That is the poor folks they are bullying. And lists a bunch of employees making over £60k.One over £190k. Quelle surprise.

  14. “outside in the real world people simply do not waste food”

    Yes they do I’m afraid. The denizens of this blog may be frugal sorts, being of an age to either remember rationing or be brought up by parents who did, and absorbed it by osmosis (thats how I got it), but vast swathes of the public have no folk memory of hunger to guilt them into not discarding unwanted food. My own cousin will not save one scrap of food that isn’t eaten at the sitting its prepared for. All goes in the bin. My father currently has a series of carers looking after him, many are astounded by my mother’s use of left overs and saving of scraps, down to having a little bowl of scraps for my dogs to have with their meals (previously she kept chickens which had all the waste). People I know will also throw away perfectly good food because its past the sell by date on the packet.

  15. @ljh: “give it to the porker the family is fattening up for winter food”

    Technically banned by fuckwitted food safety laws. One of my sisters-in-law raises a couple of pigs and four/five lambs for food each year, so knows the relevant laws. Once a cabbage stalk or carrot peeling has been in your kitchen it is illegal to feed it to pigs grown for human consumption in case it’s been exposed to a dodgy meat sandwich. She of course prepares all her vegetables before taking them into the kitchen to cook. 🙂

  16. Maritime Barbarian said:
    “They may be counting the wonky or substandard veg that’s thrown away. Put it on the shelf, though, at a low price, and the outrage would be incandescent.”

    Have you been shopping recently? The supermarkets have cheap veg ranges, at least in their big out of town shops (although often not in their smaller town centre ones) (Morrison’s even calls them “wonky veg”). They also sell off food that has reached its sell-by dates very cheaply at the end of the day.

    This is why I find the claims of supermarket waste hard to believe – waste loses money and supermarkets are very good at reducing it.

  17. Jim,

    I’m not clear why I should feel remotely guilty about discarding unwanted food, I bought it, I can do what the hell I like with it.

    I agree that one third waste appears improbable, but, whatever the actual amount, eliminating all food waste would have a massive hit on the food supply business.

  18. ‘You highlight once again the massive problem of food waste, with one third (sic) of produce thrown away.’

    So? We throw away EXCESS. If we have a use for it, we don’t. I guess it’s that it is FOOD that this is supposed to have some relevance.

    I ran water in my kitchen sink this morning til it got hot. I WASTED one third of it. MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

    Once again, there is no problem, though it is a MASSAIVE non-problem.

  19. I grew up in the 1970s, and on free school meals, throwing food away (and not finishing your free school meal) was worse than sinful, it was a loathing hatred of the society around you.

  20. Obviously, what we need is a government commission to determine the exact amount of food for the farmers to produce. They must not produce any more than that. Those that overproduce will be punished severely.

    When droughts, locusts, or simple bad luck result in underproduction, the people will have to go hungry.

    Of course, under such conditions the commission to determine how much food to produce will be fed first, to ensure their essential work can continue.

    The second to be fed will be the commission that decides who gets which amount of food, as appropriate to their needs.

    Neoliberal critics will point out that this has been tried before. They will be the first against the wall.

  21. Most of the comments here focus on retail and household waste – I also suspect a substantial part of the figures is catering waste.

  22. I can imagine an imperious journo standing on her Islington mansion balcony shouting:

    let them eat lentil cake (produced by local artisans receiving wages equivalent to those unproductive City workers) certified as organic by the Soil Association, batch-tested to be GMO free and hand-wrapped in recycled Guardian newsprint.

  23. DocBud

    :’I bought it, I can do what the hell I like with it.’

    Now that is the correct attitude for anybody who believes in freedom. Same counts for water, petrol, electricity, you name it. And it comes with an implied fuckoff to any prodnose who wants to tell you what to do.

  24. Jim is right unfortunately. The kind of people who really waste food aren’t the ones who can afford to because they’re rich. It’s the ones who are poor BECAUSE they haven’t got the nous (or whatever) to be frugal. They piss their food and their money up the wall. Then come asking for handouts.

    If that sounds grouchy, well, yeah, it is.

  25. “The kind of people who really waste food aren’t the ones who can afford to because they’re rich. It’s the ones who are poor BECAUSE they haven’t got the nous (or whatever) to be frugal.”

    True. See fig 193 on p192 of that report I linked.

    And as a special treat for all the racists here, they even divide food waste by ethnic group! (See pp193-197.) Enjoy!

  26. OT, but there’s a wonderful letter on the same page as that of Mr Dudley “Air” Miles. Pure Guardian, 100% proof:

    I’m glad Betty Birch mentioned tampons as a useful food bank donation (Letters, 21 August). An Eritrean asylum seeker living in shared accommodation in this area proudly showed me his food bank haul. He was particularly pleased with his washing powder and hair shampoo. Oh, and half a dozen cans of Irn-Bru.

    Vicky Woodcraft
    Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

  27. And of course one has to consider that the very same people who decry that ‘one third of food is wasted’ would be the very same people who would scream blue murder if you suggested that the poor eat leftovers………..

  28. Dennis the Peasant

    The obvious, but unasked question is this: What would you do with the food saved, and how would you do it? There is this assumption that if the food isn’t wasted in the manner it is, there is a ready alternative available to do something non-wasteful with it. I don’t think that is the case.

  29. You can be sure that anything described in the media these days as a “massive problem” is a trivial issue, as mentioning all the truly massive problems is verboten.

  30. “What would you do with the food saved, and how would you do it?”

    Wouldn’t you just produce less food? Use those resources for something else?

  31. NiV,

    What else would you do with the animals you didn’t slaughter or the crops you didn’t harvest?

    My wife and I are hosting dinner for about 15 on Saturday. We will deliberately over cater to ensure we don’t under cater. We’ll eat leftovers on Sunday, maybe even Monday, but end up tossing some food. So what?

    Simple reality, food waste is not a real problem.

  32. My wife grew up pretty poor in the Philippines, poorer than practically anyone in the UK these days. She finds the wastage of any food utterly abhorant, many of her neighbours at home can’t feed their children properly still. Problem is now she can afford all the food she likes she cooks a shit load of it and then gets mad at me when I can’t finish it all.

    First world problems huh?

  33. “What else would you do with the animals you didn’t slaughter or the crops you didn’t harvest?”

    You just don’t breed/plant so many next year.

    “So what?”

    Agreed. It’s £9bn well spent. (About £370/UK household per year average, £540/yr average for families with children. Compare that to the average household income per year.)

    It’s mainly planning overhead – people either cook too much or buy too much compared to what they actually want to eat. If people are willing to pay the overhead rather than spend time each week planning/measuring more precisely, that’s up to them.

    But production scales to match consumption. There wouldn’t be any major societal problem if we bought less food.

  34. If we see a good offer in a supermarket, and I do calculate in my head (we were schooled in mental arithmetic when I was a child) and it’s true, we buy it if we like the product. If it’s perishable we eat one and freeze the others. Then every now and again we unfreeze one and eat that. Oh look, no throwing away and lo, no obesity. I didn’t think the Graun employed thickos as journalists, just communists.

  35. There is no societal problem that we buy too much food. Those we buy the excess from think it’s great, just as anyone in business would. Go and buy two TVs and toss one, Samsung is not going to cry about TV waste.

  36. The idiot who wrote the letter to the Graun that Timmy is referencing in this post misread or misunderstood (or, possibly is deliberately misrepresenting) the report he himself is referencing in his letter. Click through and have a look.

    The report says the *amount* of waste will increase *by* a third, by 2030. Globally (I am presuming here: the figures *have* to be global and not for the UK). Not that a third of all food produced *is* being wasted, as the dimwit who wrote that letter is stating.

    All the other bilge about 3 for 2 deals is just bollocks he’s made up, to fit the misunderstood fact, he thought he read (to fit his obvious big-business prejudice).

    Seeing as that report is referring to an *increase* by 2030 and covers global figures, I’ll bet a large part of that waste will – as it does currently – come from underdeveloped economies like India, and Africa where (as in the case of India, I understand) currently about half of all food produced rots before it gets to the stores / shops in cities, towns and villages. Due to inefficient supply chains (known as supermarkets in more developed economies).

    Guardian readers: either utterly unable to comprehend things, or wilfully twist things to suit their agenda. Idiots or cunts. You choose.

  37. “Not that a third of all food produced *is* being wasted, as the dimwit who wrote that letter is stating.”

    He’s citing the bit a little further down the page, in the fifth paragraph.

    Each year, 1.6bn tonnes of food worth approximately $1.2tn, goes to waste – about one third of the food produced globally.

    That’s globally, of course. For the UK see tables 20 and 21 in that report I linked.

    “… either utterly unable to comprehend things, or wilfully twist things to suit their agenda. Idiots or cunts. You choose.”

    Mmm.

  38. Remember that the figures by weight include such things a peelings. Frankly, I’d compost the waste, but in a semi-rural (which also means semi-urban!) garden like mine it attracts vermin. I had a barmy neighbour who composted everything, and we didn’t see the last of the rats until they moved house. She also planted broken glass in her garden to deter cats, and brambles in her hedge (ditto) – so now I’m off to pick some of ‘her’ blackberries from the brambles that can’t be suppressed.

  39. “Remember that the figures by weight include such things a peelings.”

    It depends on which figures you’re looking at. You can get both. From p84:

    Avoidable food waste excludes items that could not have been consumed such as used teabags or meat bones and waste that some people choose not to eat such as potato or carrot peelings or bread crusts

  40. Agreed, ignore the totals, it’s the avoidable that’s potentially useful, ie 25% of everything rather than the 31% (third) headline.

    But it still all looks “wrong”. Apparemtly those who thought they wasted “nothing at all” (as part of the survey) in fact wasted on average 1.7Kg per week (of “avoidable”). That just doesn’t ring true?

  41. If you want real food waste you really need a Communist system. Leaving the crops rotting in the fields is also environmentally friendly – there are no emissions transporting them to the consumer!

  42. @NiV, your worked example is good, except most large retailers will demand the cost of BOGOFs from their suppliers.

  43. @ NiV
    You can do sums.
    Is the largest part of the waste that amounts to more than one-third of the food that we buy (not the bigger waste from unsold food bought by restaurants and food rejected by supermarkets because it’s the “wrong shape”) down to food left on the plate? That is over one-sixth of all the food put on plates, according to your link.
    I cannot believe that.

  44. “But it still all looks “wrong”. Apparemtly those who thought they wasted “nothing at all” (as part of the survey) in fact wasted on average 1.7Kg per week (of “avoidable”). That just doesn’t ring true?”

    Agreed. It’s not the impression I have, either. But whether that’s because people generally don’t notice how often they do it, or because there’s something wrong with the calculation/survey/sample, I don’t know.

    1.7 kg/wk is about half that of the average UK household, which is reported to avoidably waste about 18% of food bought by weight. So I guess the ones who think they don’t waste any are actually at about 10% or thereabouts.

    I know that I do throw away some – largely because I’m very annoyed when I have to. 10% still sounds a bit high, but is plausible. I’d have guessed 5-10% personally. But I don’t know. I’ve never bothered to measure it.

    However, when I visit family it’s not unusual to see them dump bread because it’s started to go mouldy, or potatoes because they’ve gone green and started to sprout. And it’s not unusual that people don’t clear their plates, if they’re not hungry that day. (Ladies on diets are particularly prone to this.) So it may be dependent on different households’ habits.

    Nevertheless, the main point is that it’s one of those things that is to be expected, and doesn’t actually matter. The amount of food people are going to want to eat is variable and unpredictable in advance. So if you buy it all in one big weekly shop, you’re generally going to buy for the maximum you might want rather than the average, so you don’t run out. They sell it in fixed-size packages and you’re always going to round up a size rather than round down. And food nowadays is only a small proportion of people’s expenditure, and people value the time and mental effort needed to plan/measure more than they did, so in utility terms it’s better to waste a little food than to waste a lot of time/effort on chasing trivial costs. It’s perfectly sensible.

    It’s just that when people still have memories of not having enough food, it seems more wrong to waste it than it actually is worth, so the prodnoses can still manage to get a campaign out of it.

  45. ***
    @NiV: ““Not that a third of all food produced *is* being wasted, as the dimwit who wrote that letter is stating.”

    He’s citing the bit a little further down the page, in the fifth paragraph.

    Each year, 1.6bn tonnes of food worth approximately $1.2tn, goes to waste – about one third of the food produced globally.”

    ***
    You know what – I did miss that, thanks for pointing that out. When I realised the report (in the Graun) is about the global situation, and the respondent was linking it to 3 for 2 offers (in this country I presume), well, why read further? It’s clearly nonsense. If that’s the best the twit who wrote it can suggest then I’m not gonna waste any more time reading him.

    However – crikey – so a third of all food produced globally *is* wasted (assuming *that* report is correct). That is bad. I genuinely think so.

    So, what is the main cause of this? 3 for 2 offers in the UK? Or inefficient / corruption in under-developed countries? The report you refer to is UK based and based on a somewhat dodgy methodology, so bears no relation to the global issue.

    Do we in the UK really need to change our ways? Or do other countries / continents need to sort their shit out?

    I think virtue-signalling in this country, and pretending that super-markets ’cause’ the problem (just to engage in a bit of lefty ‘bash-the-corporations’ bullshit), will have fuck-all effect on the poor sods that *really* suffer from a lack of food / food wasteage.

  46. @ DocBud
    Goodonyer
    When I was younger one of my rules was only to cook stuff that I was willing to eat up as “leftovers”.

  47. “Is the largest part of the waste that amounts to more than one-third of the food that we buy (not the bigger waste from unsold food bought by restaurants and food rejected by supermarkets because it’s the “wrong shape”) down to food left on the plate? That is over one-sixth of all the food put on plates, according to your link.”

    See table 147 on p166, where it indicates 30% of avoidable waste is for this reason, while figure 20 on p34 indicates 18% is avoidably wasted. Multiply the two, and 5.4% of food bought is left on the plate, or one part in 18.

    Pre-prepared meals (as well as potatoes, rice, and pasta) are particularly prone to having too much cooked and part being left on the plate. I assume that’s because it comes in fixed-size portions and a lot of people prefer smaller portions.

  48. “You know what – I did miss that, thanks for pointing that out.”

    You’re welcome. And that shows real class, to admit an error so gracefully! 🙂

    “However – crikey – so a third of all food produced globally *is* wasted (assuming *that* report is correct). That is bad. I genuinely think so. So, what is the main cause of this?”

    As I understand it, poor storage conditions, poor hygiene, lack of pesticides, lack of refrigeration, and delays in transport causes a large fraction to rot or get eaten by vermin before it ever reaches market. http://wriorg.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/uploads/food_waste.jpg

    It used to be a lot worse, and things are getting better, but the developing world still has a way to go.

    john 77, further to my comment above.

    As a proportion of the food put on plates, the food left on plates is a little higher. It’s tricky to estimate an exact number. But if we suppose that 70% of the 18% avoidably wasted never gets to the plate (12.6%) and the 10%/18% overall unavoidable/avoidable ratio applies to food put on plates, there’s about 15% of the food never makes it to the plate, and the 5.4% therefore has to be divided by 85%. That gives 6.3% of the food put on plates. About one part in sixteen. I think.

  49. @NiV
    One part in sixteen is too high but not unbelievable.
    I still don’t believe most of it: I know I don’t waste that much because the County Council has given us a little bi for food waste that we put in the compost so I *know* how much we throw away.

  50. @Bloke in Japan, August 23, 2018 at 9:49 am

    @Rhoda Klapp, August 23, 2018 at 10:04 am
    @Rob, August 23, 2018 at 10:30 am
    @Arthur the Cat, August 23, 2018 at 11:12 am

    +1

    @NiV, August 23, 2018 at 10:43 am

    +1

    Retail Marketing for Dummies
    The manufacturer usually pays for bogof, 1/2 price, £1 Off etc

  51. @Jim, August 23, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Yep.

    Ben S talks of strugglers – watch a few episodes of Good Food For Less and be amazed at how dumb people are: buying, freezing, dates – sell by and best before vs use by, etc

    However, as Gamecock says, buyer of food can do what they want with it. It’s not waste it’s rubbish.

    MyBurningEars points out a valid point: catering waste and most of that will be what customers bought and didn’t eat.

    Scraps here go in fridge and are “fridge raider” snacks for later.

    Did have some waste today: rice smelt & tasted strange – it’s now bird food.

  52. We wasted about 1/3 of our dinner this evening.

    Admittedly, only one element had been bought for this evening’s meal (of which we wasted a bit less than half – but not readily available or cook able in lesser quantity). The rest was leftovers, seasoning or supplementary veg.

  53. NiV

    “I know that I do throw away some – largely because I’m very annoyed when I have to. 10% still sounds a bit high, but is plausible. I’d have guessed 5-10% personally. But I don’t know. I’ve never bothered to measure it.”

    That’s the point. Occasionally something gets thrown out (an unexpected smell or something). Hence I wouldn’t have anwered “never”, I would have opted for “very occasionally” or whatever it was (despite the “avoidable” % almost certainly being less than 1% of the total). That’s why I am dubious – that all the “nevers” can “average” such a stonkingly high amount!

    “But it doesn’t matter in any case”

    Yep.

  54. Wouldn’t you just produce less food? Use those resources somewhere else?

    Given that you aren’t growing the food and don’t own the resources, how do you accomplish that?

  55. How much of the catering waste is parsley, snow peas, cress and other unwanted garnish? I must have pushed a ton of the stuff to the side of my plate in my lifetime.

  56. “How much of the catering waste is parsley, snow peas, cress and other unwanted garnish? I must have pushed a ton of the stuff to the side of my plate in my lifetime.”

    Ditto. They really should ask whether you want a load of rabbit food on the side of the plate. After all if its a bloke who’s just ordered steak and chips, chances are he won’t want a load of salad on the side, so why waste it by putting it there only to be slid into the bin 30 minutes later?

  57. Who says it goes in the bin? That it isn’t recycled from plate going into the kitchen to one going out?

    Yes, I have worked in the sort of place where they might too….

  58. “Given that you aren’t growing the food and don’t own the resources, how do you accomplish that?”

    Reduce demand for it. The laws of supply and demand do the rest. You know how markets work in economics, yes?

    “How much of the catering waste is parsley, snow peas, cress and other unwanted garnish? I must have pushed a ton of the stuff to the side of my plate in my lifetime.”

    And just think of all the children who won’t eat up all their sprouts and cabbage…

  59. Dennis the Peasant

    Buy less food.

    Again, how is this accomplished? The markets seem to be suggesting that people are under the impression they are purchasing the optimal amount of food at this time. Right?

  60. “Again, how is this accomplished?”

    That wasn’t the question. You asked, hypothetically, *if* we stopped wasting the food, what would we do with the food saved? The answer to which is that the market would stop producing it. I wasn’t suggesting we did – only that it wouldn’t be a problem.

    The obvious, but unasked question is this: What would you do with the food saved, and how would you do it? There is this assumption that if the food isn’t wasted in the manner it is, there is a ready alternative available to do something non-wasteful with it. I don’t think that is the case.

    However, to answer your *new* question…

    One way would be to write a best-selling book: “How a typical household can save £100s!!! in three easy steps.” (£5.99 from all good bookshops.) Step 1 is to measure how much you eat and how much you throw away. Do a food diary where you note down what you bought and when, what the use-by dates were, when you ate it, how much you ate, and what you threw away. Step 2 is to go through it and make a list of all the stuff you routinely buy or cook and don’t eat. Step 3 is to take the list to the shops and STOP BUYING IT.

    Plan what you’re going to eat and when, allowing for the expected variability, so that it all gets eaten before its due date.

    Don’t give people food on their plate they don’t like and won’t eat. Know how big people want their portions, and measure it. And for stuff like rice, pasta, and potatoes where people routinely cook too much – know how much each person actually/usually wants, look up how much dry ingredient yields that much, and then when you look at the result and think “That doesn’t look like enough…” DON’T put in that extra handful.

    It’s just one of those basic competencies at life skills that everyone ought to learn from their parents or at school (perhaps they could call the subject “home economics” or something…), but which most people get away with not bothering. They drift round the supermarket in a dream, buying stuff because it looks tasty, then stick it in the fridge and forget about it, or buy too much to be able to eat it all in time, or not build in any flexibility, or eat it in the wrong order and find stuff going off.

    You could even write some software to do it. It’s just a basic scheduling problem, really; nothing tricky.

    Like I said, I don’t think it matters. Food is cheap, we’re all – in absolute terms – rich, and a lot of people are perfectly willing to waste hundreds of pounds a year if it means they don’t have to think about what they’re doing. Society and the environment will survive it. That’s their choice, and it’s nice that we all have one.

    And the prodnoses, who think other people should be *made* to do it, can fuck off.

    But I think we need to be clear about what the actual problem is, and aim at the right target. If we argue without checking that stuff isn’t true and it turns out it is, we lose. (We lose credibility, we lose the argument, and then we lose our freedom.) If we only argue that people shouldn’t be made to do this stuff because it’s not *actually* in their interests or in the common interests of society, we concede the argument that their regulations would be justified if they *were*.

  61. Dennis the Peasant

    In other words, you haven’t a clue as to how to provide an meaningful answer to any of the questions I asked, most of which were follow-ups to the glib pseudo-solutions you were offering.

    And before you can be clear about what the actual problem is, you have to actually demonstrate that there is an actual problem. Having 1/3 of all produce going to waste may actually be optimal. The Guardian doesn’t actually demonstrate that the wastage rate is sub-optimal. They make a value judgment.

    My initial question was pointed directly at that issue. If you can’t easily and efficiently re-route this supposed wastage to being utilized in a non-wastage manner, than perhaps the wastage rate is close to being optimal.

  62. “In other words, you haven’t a clue as to how to provide an meaningful answer to any of the questions I asked, most of which were follow-ups to the glib pseudo-solutions you were offering.”

    To provide meaningful answers, you have to ask meaningful questions. I don’t think you know what your own question was.

    “And before you can be clear about what the actual problem is, you have to actually demonstrate that there is an actual problem.”

    This is the sort of thing that makes me want to swear a lot, out of frustration! I’ve SAID, repeatedly, that I don’t believe this is a problem. And yet you continue to read your own interpretation into my words, and then complain about ME not making sense!

    “My initial question was pointed directly at that issue.”

    No it wasn’t!

    The obvious, but unasked question is this: What would you do with the food saved, and how would you do it? There is this assumption that if the food isn’t wasted in the manner it is, there is a ready alternative available to do something non-wasteful with it. I don’t think that is the case.

    Your question was “What would you do with the food saved?”, pointed directly at the idea that if we stopped throwing it in the bin, there would be big piles of food stacking up all over the place that we wouldn’t be able to do anything better with!

    That’s not the problem. There would be no difficulty whatsoever re-adjusting the supply of food to match reduced demand. We’re not producing it and throwing it away because we can’t stop producing so much of it!

    The basic problem is that food shopping involves a fairly complicated (by most people’s standards) scheduling problem that the majority of UK shoppers are too stupid or lazy to solve, and cookery requires measuring and adjusting quantities to match individual food needs, which most people don’t bother with. So they buy food that goes off before they get round to eating it, and they cook too much food and then leave it in the pan or on the plate. They’re trading the cost of the food against the time and mental effort involved in using more precision, and coming to their own individual optimum.

    This is – and I emphasise that I’m repeating myself here – not a problem. That’s their choice. We’re rich enough to afford it. If the British public are willing to spend £10bn producing food and then throwing it straight in the bin uneaten in order to avoid having to think, that’s totally OK by me!

    There’s nothing we *need* to do about this. But it does mean there’s £10bn/yr worth of economic *opportunity* out there if anyone can find a way to access it. Education is one possibility, and automation is another. In the future age of internet shopping and smart fridges, it seems entirely possible to me to get the computers to do the scheduling problem. I’m sure someone will come up with a tool for it eventually. But it is not, and should not be, compulsory.

    It’s just yet another example of people seeing other people doing stuff they think is stupid, and wanting to stop them doing it. It’s a new social norm to be enforced.

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