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This is Rubbish! highlights edible food waste

Feasting on Edible Food Waste.

We are living in a world where agriculture is estimated to contribute 12-14% of greenhouse gas emissions. This figure rises to 30% or more when costs beyond the farm gate and especially land conversion are added. (1)

The impact of agriculture does not solely affect greenhouse gas emissions, it also exhausts a range of other natural resources. For example, globally, agriculture currently consumes 70% of total global 'blue water' withdrawals from rivers and aquifers available to humankind.

Without change, the global food system will continue to degrade the environment and compromise the world's capacity to produce food in the future, as well as contributing to climate change and the destruction of biodiversity.


Alongside the environmental and economic impacts of our current food supply chain system, there is the endemic problem of unequal distribution and access to food. Today 1 in 7 people in the world go hungry, (3) this is not because there is not enough food to feed people but because our global supply chain is not being sustainably and equitably governed.

There is an intrinsic link between food waste and the current food production system. If we stop wasting food, many of the costly environmental, economic and social impacts of our food supply system can be significantly reduced.

Presently global estimates of waste are reliant on a weak evidence base, but there is little doubt that the scale is substantial. It has been estimated that as much as 30% of all food grown worldwide may be lost or wasted before it reaches the consumer. Some estimates have placed it as high as 50%. (4) Addressing waste across the entire food chain will be critical in any strategy to feed around eight billion people sustainably and equitably by 2030, and nine billion by 2050.

This is Rubbish exist to highlight the social, environmental and economic impacts of systemic industrial food waste. They are a young and energetic campaign, encouraging the implementation of policy and business-led solutions, while informing the general public about food waste and what can be done to prevent it.

The UK generates between 16 – 18 million tonnes of food waste every year. This waste is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the West come from growing food that is never eaten. If we stopped wasting food in the UK, it would be the same as taking one in four cars off the road in terms of reducing CO2 emissions. In other words the impacts of systemic inefficiencies on our supply chain are huge. In a time where good food is increasingly unaffordable for individuals, and global resources are depleting exponentially we cannot ignore the need to stop needlessly wasting food.

This is Rubbish launched in September 2009 at Feeding the 5000; an event in Trafalgar Square where over 5000 people enjoyed a free lunch on food that otherwise would have been wasted. In 2010 the campaign was commissioned by The Arcola Theatre in London to produce a day of sustainable food focused workshops and an evening feast for 100. The event was a huge success and sold out in advance. Later the same year the project was short-listed for the Peoples Millions award and after appearing on national ITV the project won the public vote, receiving £50,000 to deliver a one-year pilot project “Feast”.

Feast was rolled out over 2011 and was a touring program of participatory arts and policy-led workshops, round table discussions and hands-on skills development sessions - all based on the theme of reducing food waste. Commissioning and hosting artists, policy experts, academics, businesses, food redistribution projects and authors, This is Rubbish engaged the public with a wealth of expertise and creative activities on matters surrounding food waste, as well as offering free, beautifully designed food waste feasts. Over the summer of 2011, This is Rubbish took Feast to 8 locations, engaging audiences that range from the internationally recognized Hay Festival to the urban sanctuary of Swansea City Farm.

Food waste is an issue that can be tackled if we take a unified approach. That is a collaborative approach, where grassroots organizations like This is Rubbish work hand in hand with creative thinkers, public arts, policy makers and sustainable business champions.

All founders of This is Rubbish are professional artists. We believe that the creative celebration of food waste solutions, using participation, play and co-creation are powerful tools to politically mobilise people to act. Activism and environmental and social responsibility needn't be a heavy chore, or a depressing reality. In Feast we used the arts to communicate just what can be done with food waste, in a way that everyone can join in; by eating it!

Rachel Solnick


1. Foresight. The Future of Food and Farming, Executive Summary,

The Government Office for Science, London, (2011), pg 28

2. Sustainable food, Written evidence written by WRAP, Parliament Publications, 2011,

3. World Hunger website , 2011

4. Foresight. The Future of Food and Farming, Executive Summary,

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