The average Londoner usually associates food waste with problems like pollution and world hunger. However, another negative of food waste has also been on a rise in discussions in recent years. Although not in the front row, pest infestations and their connection to edible waste should be examined alongside the other issues.
Pest control practitioners state that, along with housing density and age of housing, excess litter, carelessly discarded food waste and inadequate sewer baiting are part of the factors that contribute to the existence of rat and mice infestations in London boroughs.
Where does the problem come from?In order to thrive and reproduce, pests -- rats and mice in particular -- need several conditions to be present - shelter, food and water. Unfortunately, they have an easy access and face an abundance of food supplies when living in a close proximity to humans.
Keeping things neatly put away in the cupboards and tidying the table after dinner isn’t enough and rarely does cleanliness prevents a pest problem. When looking for food and shelter, rats and mice are after the easy win -- the compost and garbage bins near our doorsteps. After a while, the bins become part of a “breadcrumb” trail which we unconsciously create for pests to first get close to our homes and eventually get inside.
How does the issue get tackled so far?In recent years, local councils have launched food waste collection programme in some of the London boroughs. Their aim is to collect edible household waste once a week and dispose of it in a controllable environment. This way, discarded food is being dealt with before it starts to decompose and release foul smells, which is what attracts rodents in the first place. The food waste then gets mixed with garden waste to create huge composts on a commercial scale. The downside is that not all boroughs are currently involved as each one needs to decide if they want to implement the scheme and how exactly should they do it. Another negative is the fact that councils are able to service residential properties only, leaving food businesses to come up with their own initiatives or join other already existing ones.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is such an initiative. It aims to reduce the resources needed to provide our food and drink by one-fifth over the next ten years with help from organisations forming the food production and consumer systems. Although not directly, the project will still have an impact on pests and, hopefully, their population.
These and other projects try to halt the ever-growing amount of food waste but it is still up to individual households to control their consumption and purchase food mindfully.
What can you do to prevent pests coming after your rubbish?
- The most effective way to reduce food waste and as a result to avoid pests remains to purchase smartly and try to utilise everything you buy. No matter how well-sealed your rubbish bin is, a variety of pests, from rats to cockroaches, will still get attracted to the scent of rotting scraps and trimmings and will eventually find a way in.
- However, no matter how good you get at utilising leftovers, the occasional bits of food will still find their way to your kitchen bin. It’s best to keep your kitchen container lined with newspaper and the food scraps thoroughly drained from liquids and wrapped in paper before tossing them away. Alternatively, you can freeze smelly food bits until collection day.
- If your borough has a working green bin scheme for minimising food waste, make sure you’re participating actively and are following the basic instructions they provide. Set your green bin out for collection each week, no matter how full it is and strive to maintain it clean.
- Tightly seal the wheelie bin after each use, no matter how often you need to open it. Clean any spillages around that can attract pests. If you have a compost bin out in the garden, make sure to take a proper care for it as well in order to avoid attracting the attention of pests.