Schools around the UK celebrated Biology Week 2013 yesterday with assemblies about food waste, starting with an animated video produced for the event. UK households throw away 20% of the food they buy, and pupils will consider how we can reduce this huge wastage.
The animation was produced by the Society of Biology in partnership with Global Food Security, and is accompanied by notes about why we waste food and how we can reduce this. Food waste has been a theme of Biology Week 2013, and Professor Tim Benton, Global Food Security champion, spoke about the issue at a Parliamentary reception on Wednesday.
Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, says: “The volume of food we waste is staggering; collectively, households annually throw away 4.1 million tonnes of waste that could be avoided if people knew how to manage waste better. Young people are vital in tackling the problem, as consumers, and as the scientists, farmers, retailers and policy makers of tomorrow.
“We started Biology Week as a celebration of the life sciences, and biology’s contribution to reducing food waste – whether this is preventing loss of crops to pest and disease, or ensuring food stays safe for longer – is certainly something to celebrate.”
Pic: National Geographic
There was some sad news today when it was reported that a dead sperm whale washed up on the southern Spanish coast had swallowed 17kg of plastic waste dumped into the sea by farmers tending greenhouses that produce vegetables for British supermarkets.
The 4.5 tonne whale had swallowed 59 different bits of plastic – most of it thick transparent sheeting used to build greenhouses in southern Almeria and Granada, reported The Guardian. The plastic had eventually blocked the animal’s stomach and killed it, according to researchers from Doñana national park research centre in Andalusia.
In all the whale’s stomach contained two dozen pieces of transparent plastic, some plastic bags, nine metres of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots and a plastic spray canister. All were typical of the Almeria greenhouses where plants are grown in beds of perlite stones and drip-fed chemical fertilisers. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are all valued customers.
Environmentalists complain that local riverbeds are often awash with plastic detritus and some ends up in the sea. “The problem of degraded plastics that are no longer recyclable still remains,” said Renaud de Stephanis, lead researcher at Doñana. “These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry, making them vulnerable to its waste products if adequate treatment of this industry’s debris is not in place.”
The news came just two days after British actor Jeremy Irons told a conference that people must overhaul their habits of “unadulterated consumerism” if the EU is to curb its huge waste problem.
The European Commission hosted the conference in Brussels to announce the publication of the EU’s green paper on plastic waste. It aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.
“We have time for things we think are important,” said Irons. “If people were made aware of the follow on [of waste disposal]… Unadulterated consumerism will not work. Now it is really time to think. The old model, especially in this part of the world, hasn’t worked well.”