With COP26 just a year away, Glasgow Science Centre's new food waste campaign Scraps is a timely showcase of easy recipes from top chefs such as Gary Maclean that allow families to make the most of ingredients. By Colin Cardwell

 

Gary Maclean has won plaudits as a multi award-winning chef, educator and as a tireless advocate of creative cooking. Now, Scotland’s National Chef and senior lecturer at City of Glasgow College has been invited by Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) to front its Scraps campaign, which highlights  food waste as an issue relevant to climate change.

He is set to join fellow Glasgow chefs Julie Lin of Julie’s Kopitiam and Rachna Dheer of Babu Bombay Street Kitchen in a campaign that aims to prove that everyone can engage with at home and empower themselves to get creative in the kitchen.

Anticipating the United Nation’s Conference of Parties (COP26) which comes to Glasgow in November 2021, Scraps is a fun approach to a serious problem. In 2016,  Zero Waste Scotland found that food waste from Scottish households released 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – while least one third of all edible food produced across the world is never eaten, enough to feed two billion people or a quarter of the world’s population.

Maclean has been passionate about the problem for years. “As a chef, it was emphasised to me even in the 1980s that food waste was a negative thing – though back in these days that wasn’t because of its environmental effect but rather because it was a waste of money that affected the profit and loss situation of the business.” 

Now he says nothing goes into the bin in his kitchen, whether at home or in his professional life and he has over the years become increasingly exasperated by the amount of food he sees going to waste. “I’ve always been keen on getting out and about to see how my food is produced. Looking at the complex supply chain that puts food on our tables I just couldn’t believe the time, energy and effort it takes to grow and produce it before it comes into the kitchen.

“The fact that so much of it ends up in the bin is horrific. It’s not just throwing it away that creates greenhouse gases but the growing or rearing of the food itself also produces these gases.”  

The challenge, of course, is convincing the wider public – we don’t by nature like being ‘told what to do’ to change our ways. 

“We have to give people good consumer advice, ensuring that they see the effect food waste is having on our environment and that using food wisely is a benefit to them individually as well as the planet they live on,” says Maclean.

This, he adds, means nothing less than a radical change in our lifestyle and daily routines. 

“We’re creatures of habit, including me,” he says. “We all have between seven and 10 dishes we continually return to, we all go shopping on the same day of every week, park in the same space and wander round the supermarket picking up the same items as we did the previous week. Then we go home and take out the chicken in the bottom of the fridge, put it in the bin and replace it with the chicken we’ve bought for the following week. 

“That’s not uniquely a Scottish or even a British phenomenon, it happens across the whole western world.” 

In many cases, he says, we just don’t take food seriously enough. “We see it as a chore or necessity but we don’t see it as a pleasure. I think that people spend more time thinking about what shoes they buy than they do about their weekly food shop.” 

HeraldScotland:

Stephen Breslin, CEO of Glasgow Science Centre

 

While he doesn’t believe there is one specific recipe that changes our approach to food waste, the spiced quinoa, spinach, green vegetables and broccoli cakes with salad and a parmesan crème fraiche dressing that feature on Maclean’s Scraps video might be a contender. 

“What I wanted to do was to show a real world dish, using basically what I had in my kitchen,” he says. “Nothing about it was staged and it wasn’t a recipe I had pre-written. 

“I literally went round my kitchen picking up bits and bobs with the idea of making a cake with quinoa – and the beauty of the dish is that you can really put anything in it: stalks of broccoli, oatmeal and so on.”

Attitudes have, he says improved. “Having been in the industry for 30 years I’ve noticed a massive change – even in the past 10 years. Students coming into college now have an increased awareness of the environment; it’s part of their daily agenda. They understand the need to be careful about what we’re doing to the world – and the role of food – in a way that until relatively recently hadn’t been a priority.”

Encouragingly, the change is being driven from the bottom up. 

“I have five children, two of them at primary school and they’re coming home with lots of questions about global warming, food waste and other issues about the environment that they’re being taught about.”

The coronavirus pandemic, while unwelcome in so many ways, has nevertheless helped many of us appreciate what we eat and the implications of throwing it away. 

“A lot of people are increasingly watching the pennies each week. If they can save some money and still cook good food they will become more engaged and interested and in the end, the environment benefits from that because they are learning new skills and gaining an understanding of how they can make the best use of their food while also being thrifty with their spending.

"It’s surprising what you can do with a pack of ham and a tin of beans,” he says. “One of the things I emphasise is the importance of buying from your local shop. 

“In the darkest hours of lockdown not even takeaways were open so people had to cook – and they were rediscovering local butchers and greengrocers, buying Scottish produce and having it delivered to their homes.
Maclean enthuses about working with Glasgow Science Centre: “It’s been great – and the fact that it engages with kids from the age of three or maybe even younger and get them excited about the subject is amazing. 

“Anything we can do to make Scotland a better, greener country is positive and while this campaign alone won’t change the world, in combination with the hundreds of campaigns involving various skills at the heart of COP26 it has the potential to make a big difference,” he says.

“The world’s eyes are going to be on Glasgow, a city which has already proved itself in hosting major events such as the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships. We’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time and the younger generation is much more aware of the impact of food waste and its impact on the environment. That’s very encouraging – but there’s a lot more to be done.”

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Increasing amount of perfectly edible waste gives food for thought

GLASGOW Science Centre’s Scraps campaign aims to highlight food waste as an issue relevant to climate change that anyone can engage with at home – and hopes to empower families to get creative in the kitchen

Food waste is a significant problem that contributes directly to our warming planet. According to Zero Waste Scotland:

  • In 2016 food waste from Scottish households released 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Key waste items include chicken, potatoes, salad, milk, vegetables.  
  • At least one third of all edible food produced across the world is never eaten. That’s enough food to feed two billion people – that’s a quarter of the world’s population!
  • The average UK family could save £720 a year by stopping food waste at home.
  • Each year in the UK we throw away enough slices of bread to feed 10 million people.
  • HeraldScotland:

Working with Zero Waste Scotland’s ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ campaign and some of Scotland’s most exciting and talented chefs, Glasgow Science Centre is showcasing fun, quick and simple methods to reduce food waste at home. 
Scraps encourages people to love the food they buy and this includes tips for better food storage, meal planning and preparation tips that show love to your leftovers.

A series of videos challenges three chefs to cook using the odds and ends of food usually thrown in the bin, such as broccoli stalks and asparagus stems. 

The videos are each 5-10 minutes long and feature a different chef who leads the viewers through three different recipes and meals. 

The ingredients used in each dish are easily available and audiences had a chance to vote on which surprise ingredients each chef incorporated into their dish through a poll on social media. 

They were informed of the results of the poll in advance of filming. The rest of the items could be selected by the chefs – who used items which can be purchased locally and are accessible to everyone from popular supermarkets or local shops. 

The chefs also provide some top tips relating to meal planning; seeing value in your food and buying locally and food storage. Scraps is part of GSC’s Our World Our Impact public engagement programme which is being delivered with support from the Climate Change Division of the Scottish Government.