THOUSANDS OF tons of perfectly good food goes straight into the bin every year in what's being described as the scandal of Britain's biggest source of food waste.
A leading waste management company has found through its own research that over 99% of bagged salads given away by takeaway food establishments are never eaten, with many thrown into waste bins unopened.
BusinessWaste.co.uk says that public waste bins nears some curry houses and takeaway kebab shops are often filled to overflowing with bagged salads as customers dump them at the first opportunity.
"We tried to find out who eats these salads, and we found literally nobody prepared to confess that they did," says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall, "In our opinion, they're nothing but a huge waste of food. Thousands of tons going to waste."
BusinessWaste.co.uk asked hundreds (1459 people were involved in the survey) of takeaway food customers at several locations in the UK what they did with free salads given away as an accompaniment to curries or kebabs.
- 56% Throw it in the bin without opening
- 30% Put it in the fridge, and throw it away later
- 14% Leave it in the shop or give it back to the delivery person
- 0% Eat it
BusinessWaste.co.uk puts the reluctance of many people to eat salads from takeaways down to the mistaken perception that there's probably something wrong with it, or that it has been prepared in an unhygienic kitchen.
"A plastic bag's probably not the best way to present a salad, to be honest," says Mark Hall, "Customers have a mental image of the food being stuffed in there by bare hand, which it most certainly isn't. But it's a hard image for most people to shake."
However, that reason is the one most heard by BusinessWaste.co.uk when it asked customers why they avoided takeaway salads:
- "I don't know where it's been."
- "I've been told that it's dirty." / "... it's out of date." / "...they don't wash it."
- "I might get food poisoning off it." / "I heard somebody good food poisoning off it."
- "I hate salad."
The most pointed – and possibly the most telling - answer to the number of bagged salads found strewn outside town centre takeaways by waste disposal operators was:
- "I'll tell you - Who wants a salad at pub closing time? Nobody, that's who."
BusinessWaste.co.uk says that takeaways should think twice before throwing in a bag of salad with an order. In fact, Mark Hall says they could easily slash waste by asking if the customer actually wants it.
"It's a very simple solution," says Hall, "And one that will save food establishments money and puts and end to the thousands of tons of food wasted every year."
And that's before we even think about hundreds of thousands unwanted plastic bags, says BusinessWaste.co.uk. "It's straight to landfill for most of them," Hall says, "And that's something we just can't keep doing these days."
While it may seem a minor issue at first glance, it's an important one as food security and conservation of resources becomes more important to the national economy, Business Waste concludes.
"We're all for getting your five-a-day," says BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall. "But in this case, our message is loud and clear – Say 'NO' to salad!"