Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Hugh's War on Waste, BBC1 - TV review: ​Hugh's meal was total rubbish - and his most impressive yet

Celebrity chef-turned-eco-warrior Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall concluded his war on waste last night with a homemade bin banquet. No I didn't just misspell bun, he actually served a full buffet prepared entirely from food that he and his new skip-diving mates had fished out of bins in supermarket car parks.

What's shocking about this fact is not that he fed 200 unsuspecting people with the spoils from a few Waitrose wheelie bins, but that he was able to. The contents of these supposed rubbish bins were more impressive than my fridge the day after an Asda delivery. And that's exactly the point Hugh was trying to make – thousands, if not millions, of tonnes of perfectly safe, tasty, edible food is thrown away every day. And while a few lucky sackfuls might have been rescued by an unsuspecting BBC researcher and offered a second shot at life in a vegetable curry, most of it is left simply to languish.

Even the food that does make it off the shelves and into our baskets isn't guaranteed to make it as far as our mouths. We are all so keen to have what we want when we want it that supply and demand no longer seems to take into account need. And this doesn't just apply to perishables – as Hugh proved with his enlightening look at our consumer habits, our desire to stay on trend has created a nation of clothes shopaholics.

Among the mountains of discarded clothing, the unsorted paper and plastic and the near-rotting but in no way rotten fruit Hugh poked around in, was a pretty damning set of statistics. It takes Britain just 10 minutes to throw away seven tonnes of clothes; a charity that uses supermarket seconds to supply 150,000 meals a week is making use of just two per cent of the supermarket's surplus waste; one single supplier (albeit a hugely successful one) is throwing away 3,000 tonnes of perfectly edible carrots a year because they don't meet so-called cosmetic standards. It all painted a very sorry picture of the retailers who waste the goods, and we, the consumers who drive their behaviour.

In what was an incredibly comprehensive exploration of an incredibly important subject matter, Hugh visited everyone from the farmers who grow the food to the shoppers who buy it. He met with – and in many cases clashed with – buyers and marketing professionals along the way. He rooted through people's recycling, grilled PR chiefs and attended an anaerobic digestion plant where food waste is turned into energy. If ever there was a man on a mission, this is he.

Hugh's “war” is one we very desperately need to win. Thanks to this well-executed and meticulously researched programme, hopefully he'll now have a few more recruits ready to join his army.

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