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Zero Waste Week: 2-8 September

This year, Zero Waste Week will be focusing on food waste. Founder and organiser Rachelle Strauss explains why she set up the campaign and what she hopes to achieve this year

On 16 August 2004 I was on holiday with my family in Boscastle, Cornwall. It was the perfect summer day with endless blue skies. But with typical English weather being what it is, the skies soon turned black, the rain began to pour and it didn’t stop - for hours.

Our three year old was restless and bored so we drove to a shop to buy her some crayons and a colouring book. In the time it took us to browse the store the tide came in and two rivers rose by 7ft. We stepped outside to see flood waters roaring past taking with them 75 cars, five caravans, 100 homes and businesses, several trees and finally, the bridge that would have led us to safety out of the village. There were 150 people who were clinging onto trees and stranded on the roofs of remaining buildings, who had to be airlifted to safety.

According to the Environment Agency these flash floods were among the most extreme ever experienced in Britain. The jury is out on whether or not global warming is due to human activity. But in that moment, when I was standing with my daughter in my arms wondering whether I’d ever see my husband again, I decided this could be the effects of human activity and I decided to be part of the solution.

As a family we made some changes, simple things like actually using our recycling bins rather than storing Lego in them, combining errands whenever we drove anywhere, and growing a bit of food. I started to blog about my recycling experiment and our site attracted media interest from around the world.

In 2008, I launched a national awareness campaign called Zero Waste Week. This year it takes place on 2-8 September and the theme is ‘Use it up!’ which focuses on reducing food waste.

Recent reports show that 30-50% of all food grown on this planet never reaches a human stomach! It never reaches the shelves because it’s harvested, stored and transported incorrectly. Supermarkets reject food for being the wrong shape, colour or size. Householders buy too much, store it badly or cook too much. Our culture encourages us to treat food like a disposable commodity rather than a valuable resource.

And all the while we are throwing our food away, nearly 870 million people – that is one in eight - in the world go to bed hungry. So if you’re up for a little fun I invite you to try this experiment: take £50 from your purse, wallet or an ATM when you next get cash out and throw it in the bin. That’s crazy right?

Well according to WRAP, the average householder - that’s you, me and all our friends - throw away £50 of food every month.

With Zero Waste Week you’re invited to think out food waste. There are many methods such as buying unpackaged food in order to buy just the amount you need; menu planning to ensure all those things in the fridge get used up on time and my favourite – replacing the word ‘leftovers’ with ‘ingredients’.

The aims of the week are to rethink food, get creative in the kitchen and of course, save money and give the environment a helping hand. Many Local Authorities have food waste collections; however it is still eight times better for the environment to reduce food waste in the first place than recycle it.

Find out more and sign up at

Our pledges

MRW will, once again, be supporting Zero Waste Week. The MRW editorial team have all pledged to do one thing to reduce their food waste. What will you pledge to do?

Robin Latchem, editor: “I’m going to take home my personal food waste from the office because the current arrangements at MRW Towers are not as smart as they could be.”

Andrea Lockerbie, associate editor: “We do actually plan meals, so we don’t produce much food waste at all, just peelings and bones which go into the food waste caddy. So I pledge to badger family and friends to make sure they do the same!”

Chiara Francavilla, senior reporter: “I will move food that is about to expire to the front of my fridge and cupboard to make sure I don’t forget about it.”

Tom Kenning, reporter: “I pledge to always have enough Tupperware in the kitchen so, if I’ve cooked too much, I can seal up the leftovers and take it to work for lunch the next day. No lazy scraping into the bin.”

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