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Food packaging waste is killing the planet, and it’s all down to lazy meals

Packaging waste produced by British homes could be slashed by up to a half if people dumped ready meals and learned how to cook again.

That’s the opinion of a national waste and recycling company, which says that we as a nation have slipped out of the habit of home-cooking, with potentially disastrous consequences for both health and the environment.

Despite the popularity of TV programs like Masterchef and Great British Bake-Off, the BusinessWaste.co.uk company has found that most people think they haven’t got time to cook a meal from scratch in the evening, and lack the skills to do so.

“Lazy eating is becoming a national epidemic in this country,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And not only are we filling ourselves up with excess sugar and salt from ready meals, but we’re creating mountains of food packing waste that goes straight into the bin.

“So much plastic waste – it’s killing the planet in the name of an easy dinner.”

BusinessWaste.co.uk asked hundreds (1450) of householders how often they cooked an evening meal from scratch using fresh ingredients and were shocked by their own findings:

• Never 34%
• Once a week 43%
• More than once a week 21%
• Every day 2%

How often do you eat ready meals? (‘Ready meals’ also includes food from takeaway restaurants)

• Never 3%
• Once a week 31%
• More than once a week 48%
• Every day 19%

“That’s nearly a fifth of people eating ready meals every day,” says Hall. “That’s pretty depressing, and an indication of how far down the road we’ve gone as a convenience society.”

• Eve, who works in central London was typical of people BusinessWaste.co.uk asked: “I’m too tired to cook when I get home. I can pick up something from the supermarket by the station and stick it in the microwave. That’s pretty healthy, right?”

Unfortunately, many supermarket-bought ready meals contain excess quantities of sugar and salt and could be damaging to health in the long-run. It’s worse if the meal is of the instant variety:

• Jake, another commuter living in Woking said: “Home. Pot Noodle. Watch the football down the pub. I haven’t got time in my life to cook. Who has?”

• Maria, who is a working mum, added some context: “I’ve got a busy life as it is, and my lazy family expects me to put dinner on the table every night. The hubby helps, but most times it’s something out of the freezer and straight in the microwave. I’ll always try for some fresh veg, though. I don’t want them to die of scurvy, right?”

• Brian, a dad from Coventry says: “We try for a home-cooked meal most nights, but sometimes we’re all just too tired. I feel really guilty about the number of plastic pots that go in the bin when we have a lazy meal – surely there’s another way?”

BusinessWaste.co.uk said food packaging waste can be lowered by a massive 50% of people started cooking more meals at home, rather than relying on processed food for their diets.

“Our lives are really no busier than they were twenty or thirty years ago,” says Hall, “but we’ve fallen out of the habit of cooking for ourselves. Now there’s an emerging generation that doesn’t have those skills at all. Some people can barely boil an egg.

“We’ve made ourselves prisoners in the ready meals aisle,” he says.

While the tens of thousands of tons of extra food packing are a serious issue, the health of the nation is just as bad, with a reliance on low-quality food causing obesity, diabetes and other conditions which will cost Britain dearly in coming years.

“Dumping the ready meal really will save lives, and help save the planet,” says Hall.

One person who spoke to BusinessWaste.co.uk e put the issue into perspective: “Maybe I’m looking at this with rose-tinted spectacles,” said Stephen, 40, “But as we were crowded around my iPad watching the progress of our pizza order, I remembered a time when we crowded into the kitchen to make an evening meal together.

“We might give that a try this week.”

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