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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 14 April
PRESENTER
TOM HEAP
Tom Heap
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 14 April 2004
The Rocket at the East London Community Recycling Project
Is this one solution for our wasted food?

The best meal you'll never have!

In the UK, a shocking 30-40% of all food is never eaten. In the last decade the amount we binned went up by 15%. Every year each of us throws away over £400 worth of food - that's £20 billion pounds overall, enough to cover the cost of everyone's council tax.

And it's not just the financial loss. The environment suffers too. Food grown but not eaten means more farm chemicals; transported and not eaten means more food miles; processed and thrown away means more rotting food churning out methane - the most potent greenhouse gas.

Every indication is that with the continuing trend to eat out more and the rise of convenience food, the figures will only increase as they have on the other side of the Atlantic. A 10 year study by Tim Jones at the University of Arizona has shown that 40-50% of all food in the US ready for harvest never gets eaten.

A quarter of all food heading for landfill could be eaten. As we hear, a small portion of this is saved and used by charities like FARESHARE to feed the 4 million in this country who do not have enough to eat.

'Costing the Earth' unveils the extent of the problem and how new innovations, both hi-tech and low-tech, are now being found to convert unwanted food into a useful product.

Tom Heap visits Greenfinch Ltd in Ludlow. They are planning to take sorted kitchen and garden waste from households in South Shropshire and put them through a process of anaerobic digestion - the breakdown of organic material in the absence of oxygen. The product is a fertilizer and a bio-gas, which is then used to make heat and electricity. A successful pilot project with Sainsburys has shown this technique can even be used if food is still in its packaging.

A larger anaerobic digestion plant is being trialled in Leicester by the City council and the waste company BIFFA.

Businesses too are being attracted to new solutions. The bakers chain Greggs are piloting a zero waste policy at their branch in Trefforest, near Cardiff. Food again in its packaging is dried in a special machine to produce a stable powder. This is an excellent fuel which can be made in to gas and then used to make heat and electricity.

Tom meets the residents of Nightingale Estate in Hackney in E. London who are composting their kitchen waste in a stainless steel box called The Rocket. 'Bokashi' a Japanese discovery is added, which stops the food putrefying and speeds up composting. It takes just 14 days to turn food waste into a rich fertiliser and although the scheme is voluntary over 90% of residents take part. Now rats are no longer seen on the estate.

Yet these are still pilot projects and time is running out before cost and new regulations will rule out our present extensive use of landfill and the question arises as to whether the best solution is to find ways of drastically reducing the amount of food we waste. 
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