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Leftovers: the ultimate guide

Ben Hudson

26th December, 2011

Pile of leftover turkey driving you crazy? Here's our guide to dealing with it the eco-friendly way

When the dust is settled, the wrapping paper and wine bottles recycled, the cheese board plundered and seconds or even third servings over, chances are there is still a whole lot of food left. The sheer volume of festive eats is a lot to manage even for the heartiest gourmand, and for many of us, it's a case of too much rather than not enough. That usually means leftovers galore. With the stress built up during the run-up to Christmas, leftovers are the last thing you want to be thinking about but with 230,000 tonnes of festive food go to waste every year. That's the equivalent of 46,000 African elephants.

Food waste is a serious problem with Brits throwing away 7.2 million tonnes of the stuff every year, much of it the result of the annual festive splurge. According to recycling campaign, Love Food Hate Waste, the carbon dioxide equivalent to reducing that food waste would be the same as taking one in five cars off the road. Food makes up almost one fifth of waste in developed countries, with the US and UK among the worst offenders. Worse still, a report earlier this year by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA) found that globally one third of all food goes to waste. When food is collected by waste authorities and put into landfill, it decomposes underground without oxygen (anaerobic conditions) and produces methane  - a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If the talk of elephants and gases turn you off, perhaps the £275million spent on wasted food this Christmas will give you reason to take note. Either way, here's how to make the most of your leftovers.

Reheat
For the ultimate snack, the ultimate Christmas sandwich is where it's at. Some like to include at least two pieces of everything that appeared on the Christmas dinner table, while others prefer to keep it simple and stick to plain turkey. For The Ecologist, the ultimate Christmas sandwich means two slices of white, organic bread, a pile of turkey, a spoonful of stuffing and a dollop of home made mayonaise. Ditch the cranberry sauce - it has the biggest carbon footprint of all Christmas condiments.
Bubble and Squeak is a real classic and apart from potatoes requires no specific ingredients so is great for using up brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage or anything else you might have. Roughly chop the lot and slide it into a well oiled pan, with some finely chopped garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. For more ideas, check out the Love Food Hate Waste guide to using leftovers by ingredient.

Reuse
London Street Food Bank (LSF) is a not for profit organisation that accepts food donations to feed the homeless and low income families in London’s East end. Sealed foods are preferred as the Food Standards Agency restricts the passing of opened, treated or cooked food. However LSF are able to accept food from restaurants in this manner. Check your local area from similar schemes.

Recycle
Composting is natures recycling, turning organic matter into fertiliser and soil amendment. While turkey, ham, beef or any other meat you may have acquired over the festive season isn't compostable, almost everything else from your Christmas dinner is, up to and including the after dinner coffee grounds.  While starting composting in winter isn't recommended, it's not a complete no-no but it is more difficult, especially for beginners. However if you do compost or started earlier this year, you'll know just how compostable Christmas is. If you are thinking about composting, check out our beginner’s guide.


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