Waste Not, Want Not – Embracing the Wonky


Toni Waters (@misstoni_w), a Walton-on-Thamesresident working in the waste industry, and a complete food obsessive, looks at how we can reduce our waste and embrace the flavours of a more wonky world.


Hersham or Walton-on-Thames, its always the same…

It’s either the night before, or the morning of your bin collection. The most vital of questions……Which bin is it? Recycling or Landfill?

You scrabble around on your pin board (or wherever you keep the paperwork that the council insist on sending out about what can and can’t go in the recycling), just to find that one piece of information that shows the collection date of all the materials that you have dutifully put out for the bin men, so that they aren’t left in your bin for another 2 weeks. Oh, and don’t forget the food bin (or slop bucket as our friends at the Daily Mail like to affectionately call it!). Thankfully, that’s collected every week.

Does the above sound familiar? It does to me! But have you ever wondered where all that ‘rubbish’ goes after it has left the green wheelie bins, or the food bins that are outside our houses? Many of you probably haven’t, and I don’t blame you, but what has struck me recently is that maybe we should be thinking about what we throw away, and where it goes.

Reality TV

Now, I hate reality TV (apart from the glitz and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing, of course), but it seems that reality TV is changing to a more informative or campaigning type of TV (thank goodness). With the rise of ‘Scrappers’ on Channel 5, ‘Bin There Dump That’ on Watch (or ‘W’ as it is now), Jamie and Jimmy’s ‘Food Fight’ on Channel 4 and Mr. Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s #wastenot and ‘Wonky Veg’ campaign on BBC, it seems that waste is becoming ‘de-rigueur’.

But what is the relevance to me I hear you say? Why should I bother thinking about my waste? It’s up to Elmbridge Borough Council to deal with it…..right?

Well yes…and no. We all have a responsibility for our waste. Yes sometimes I fall under the spell of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as soon as put my recyclables into my blue lidded bin, or take them down to my local recycling centre, even though I have worked in the waste industry for 10 years. However, we do have a responsibility. To future generations, and to our environment, by paying particular attention to what we are throwing away into landfill, putting out for recycling or composting, or sending to energy recovery, and what we buy.

The UK’s recycling rate is 44.9%, with Surrey above average at 53.2% (according to the Surrey Waste Partnership), which is great, but that doesn’t mean that we can become lax. The more we recycle, the less its costs Elmbridge Borough Council to deal with the waste we all produce, as they don’t have to pay landfill tax. The more food we eat, rather than throw away, the less they have to pay to take material to be composted. This means that more of their money (and yours) can be spent on repairing potholes, and making our neighbourhoods cleaner and safer.

Wonky Veg?

To tackle the issue of food waste, I think Hugh F-W has the right idea. Next time you do your weekly shop, think about what you are buying in Sainsbury’s in the Heart in Walton, at Tesco’s and M&S over in Brooklands, or at Waitrose in Hersham. Do you really need your potatoes to be faultless? Do you really need your carrots perfectly straight? Do you need your turnips to be a specific size? Not really.

Easter is an ideal time to think about how we are going to use that ‘perfect’ veg. When you had the family over on Easter Sunday, think about what actually actually happened to that veg. They were peeled, chopped and cooked or roasted. Could you see the necessity for them to look beautiful or perfect? I couldn’t.

Surely it’s better to buy something for its taste rather than its looks? And ‘wonky’ or ‘ugly’ veg probably tastes better as it has had time to mature and develop those flavours, rather than be grown so specifically, that there isn’t that time.


If the supermarkets (on our behalf) continue to perpetuate these ‘perfect’ looks, the waste created by food producers (farmers etc) will continue to rise. Hugh F-W’s #Wastenot campaign is calling on shoppers to fight against supermarket cosmetic standards, to reduce the amount of waste that is occurring in the supply chain. I have signed up to it, and I call on you to do so as well.

Yes, you are only one person, but think what impact it would have if everyone reading this, or everyone in Walton, signed up to it? The more individuals that sign up to the #wastenot campaign, the bigger it will get and the more influence it will have to change standards, and reduce waste.

I admit I wasn’t one for using wonky or ugly veg, but as soon as I made that decision to buy these types of veg, I noticed that the flavour was so much better. And to boost, because it tastes so much better, the amount I am wasting and throwing away, has reduced.

Whats that famous supermarket statement? “Every Little Helps”.

More Info!

** If you want more information about reducing food waste, go to the WRAP Love Food Hate Waste campaign website – www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

* Other information websites:
Hughs War on Waste website – Wastenotuk.com

The Rubbish Diet – http://www.therubbishdiet.org.uk/

Surrey Waste Partnership – www.surreywastepartnership.org.uk/

Elmbridge Borough Council – www.elmbridge.gov.uk/environment/recycle

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