Cyprus Mail
EnvironmentGuest ColumnistOpinion

Reducing food waste: cook less and use leftovers

wasted food

By Charalampos Theopemtou

The first time I ever had to cook to eat was when I first arrived in London to study and I was living on my own for the first time.

After a few disasters I managed to cook food that was edible, but I always cooked too much just for me.

When I first came back to Cyprus, my mum asked me if I learned to cook. I said I had, but it didn’t taste good, and I cooked a lot more than I could eat.

My mum was not only an excellent cook but also knew how to use leftover food.

She gave me a coffee cup to use for measuring and explained to me how to measure food with that and also use my hands for the right amounts.

All these years later, whenever a discussion on reducing food waste comes up, the right-sized portions and reusing leftovers is always mentioned.

When food like this, together with other biodegradable kitchen remains, is buried in a landfill, after a while methane, which is a strong greenhouse gas, plus other gases are emitted. This is the gas for which recently a COP26 decision was taken to reduce methane emissions. To achieve this, we need to first reduce food waste and also collect food waste separately and treat it in order to produce biogas (and hence energy) and/or compost.

Another issue that single people mostly face, is that many products cannot be bought in small quantities. Bread is a good example.

A good habit is to always plan ahead and have a shopping list to avoid buying a lot more stuff than you need. In a well-designed city you will find small shopping areas very near residential areas so that people can shop without needing a car. An additional advantage to shopping in small quantities is that produce is fresh and waste avoided.

Food can also be wasted when the fridge has a problem in keeping the right temperature (eg door cannot close properly) or when the temperature is on the wrong setting. Temperature in the fridge should be less than 6 degrees centigrade and if you measure it you will find a difference in temperatures among shelves. Food in the freezer should be kept at -18 degrees.

The government also has a role to play by helping the hotel and catering industries to handle food remains that are still in good condition for the benefit of the poor and for the climate. In some countries there is also legislation that allows the resale of expired products under certain conditions.

We must make sure that all expired and unusable food products from shops, the hotel and catering industries and homes are kept separate and delivered to compost plants to produce energy and compost.


Charalampos Theopemptou is leader of the Green party and chair of the House environment committee

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