How do we do better with our food waste?
Author: Ryan Collins
According to ABC TV's War On Waste series, each week the average Australian family throws out 20% of the food they buy. That’s one in every five bags of groceries! This adds up to 3.3 million tonnes of food a year, enough to fill the MCG 6 times over. So what can we do to, basically, just do better?
Food waste can be divided into three categories: avoidable food waste (food that could be eaten); potentially avoidable food waste (food that could be eaten but is not commonly consumed e.g. pumpkin skins); and unavoidable food waste (food products that cannot be eaten).
Australian households throw out $3,500 worth of food every year (enough to pay for a nice holiday!) which together amounts to more than $10 billion!
- Almost half of all waste to landfill is food waste.
- When food ends up in landfill, it rots in the absence of oxygen and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
- Around one third of the world's agricultural land is used to produce food that is subsequently not eaten. The resources like water, fuel and fertilizers used to grow that food are therefore wasted.
In April 2017, Ozharvet opened Australia’s first ever rescued food supermarket, stocked with produce that has either been donated or would otherwise go to waste, but is perfectly edible.
- Collecting food waste for recycling can reduce the impact of landfill levies on councils and help meet the waste diversion and/or resource recovery targets set by most state and territory governments in Australia.
- A recent review of ten Australian kerbside food waste collection trials and services found that the services collected an average of 1.8kg of food scraps per household per week and achieved a participation rate of 66%.
- 24% of Australians put their scraps in a worm farm or compost bin, 10% feed their scraps to chickens or other livestock, and 13% use a council-operated food waste recycling service.
- More councils are looking to introduce FOGO (food organics, garden organics) collections for residents. Contact your council to see they have plans in the pipeline.
Join the Revolution!
- Householders can reduce food waste at the source by looking in the pantry and fridge before shopping and sticking to a shopping list. For food scraps, visit RecyclingNearYou and do a location search to find out if your council offers a kerbside food scraps collection service. If there's no service yet on offer, set up a compost system, worm farm or Bokashi bucket at home. You could also contact your local community garden to find out if you can contribute food scraps to their composting system, or ask any neighbours with chickens if they could use extra scraps. The ShareWaste app connects people who wish to recycle their kitchen scraps with their neighbours who are already composting, worm-farming or keep chickens
- Businesses that regularly or occasionally has leftover food to dispose of, contact one of the many food rescue organisations now operating around the country. OzHarvest, Second Bite and FoodBank are three national organisations, but there are also many smaller, local services available. For unavoidable food waste, find recycling options at BusinessRecycling.com.au.
- Householders and businesses can visit Love Food Hate Waste to get some great tips on reducing food waste.
Ryan is the Head of Sustainable Resource Programs at Planet Ark. After nearly a decade working in the banking and finance industry Ryan was drawn to a career in environmental conservation that saw him work in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji. With a background in psychology and environmental management, Ryan’s role at Planet Ark since 2012 has been focused on developing engaging and positive environmental behaviour change programs to help everyone recycle and reduce waste.
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