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Scary waste: Halloween pumpkins could make soup for everyone in Britain

This weekend, homes across the UK, and the world, will display flickering pumpkins to mark another Halloween, but here's a frightening thought: according to research by Unilever and behaviour change charity Hubbub, 15 million pumpkins per year go to waste instead of being eaten in UK – enough for a bowl of pumpkin soup for everyone in Britain.

Scary waste: Halloween pumpkins could make soup for everyone in Britain
As well as this waste, five million pumpkins don’t make it into food waste collections and end up in landfill, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions as they decompose and produce methane. Laid end to end, the uneaten pumpkins would stretch over 2,500 miles — all the way from the UK to Azerbaijan, where pumpkin pancakes are a national dish.

One of the main issues with pumpkin waste is that over half of people asked in a Consensuswide survey didn't think of a Halloween pumpkin as food, often mistakenly believing a carving pumpkin is not edible. Seven out of 10 pumpkins carved for Halloween don’t get eaten.

This year, Hubbub and Unilever are relaunching their #PumpkinRescue campaign to encourage people to ‘turn their carvings into cravings and save their pumpkins from a spooky end’.

The campaign encourages using everyone’s ‘favourite spooky staple as a prop to talk about the edible food we throw away’ and outlines ways to eat it instead. In the next week, over 40 cooking and composting events and festivals will be taking place across the country as part of the campaign.

The aim of the campaign is to tackle the seven million tonnes of food and drink thrown away annually, more than half of which could have been eaten. It will be the third such campaign from Unilever and Hubbub as part of their Joint Ambition for a Zero Food Waste Britain, which was launched in Summer 2016 to reduce UK food waste.

Scary waste: Halloween pumpkins could make soup for everyone in Britain
A ‘food waste horror story’

Halloween is now Britain’s third biggest commercial holiday, and the Consensuswide survey of 2,000 UK adults found that two in five British households carve pumpkins for Halloween and most of those go for at least two pumpkins.

Eight out of 10 people said they would like to reduce the amount of food they waste, but half of those asked said they had never eaten pumpkin before. Hubbub says that it may be this unfamiliarity that leads six in 10 to say they wouldn’t know how to cook pumpkin.

Most (73 per cent) of those who had tried pumpkin said they liked it, with pumpkin soup coming out as Britain’s favourite pumpkin dish.

Since the #PumpkinRescue campaign’s launch in 2014, 25 tonnes of pumpkin has been directly diverted from landfill and 73 local events and workshops have been attended by 3,100 people.

Charlotte Carroll, Sustainability Director for Unilever, said: “The frightful volume of delicious and healthy pumpkins going uneaten is a food waste horror story.  

“This Halloween, with our much loved Knorr, Flora and Stork brands, we want to inspire the nation to turn their pumpkin carvings into cravings with a selection of scrumptious seasonal recipes.”

Trewin Restorick, Founder and CEO of Hubbub, added: “As Halloween continues to grow in popularity in the UK, it’s really important that this doesn’t create an ever larger mountain of food waste. 

“We must recognise that pumpkins are a valuable source of food and not just for decoration. Halloween is a great opportunity to help our children understand where food comes from and involve them in cooking a simple meal with their pumpkin carvings.”

Food waste in the UK

Almost 50 per cent of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. Fruit and veg make up 19 per cent of avoidable food household food waste.

Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children, the equivalent of around £60 a month.

If we stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.

More details of #PumpkinRescue campaign events, along with tips on carving and cooking your pumpkin, can be found on Hubbub’s website

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