Australians throw away $8 billion worth of edible food each year.1
This means that food makes up to 40% of the average household bin, which equates to $1036 per household per year being wasted on discarded food.1 However, it’s not all sad news and scary statistics.
Introducing “ugly” fruit and vegetables
Intermarché, one of the largest supermarket chains in France has introduced a successful campaign called Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables. The campaign is a fight against food waste, aiming to increase awareness and convince people that even with imperfections and irregular shapes, “ugly” fruit and vegetables are just as good as the beautiful unblemished produce we have come to expect. The produce normally thrown away was purchased by the supermarket, sold at a 30 per cent discount and was an immediate success which sold out.
The United Kingdom supermarket Sainsbury’s followed in the successful footsteps of Intermarche late last year and has been recently joined here in Australia by Woolworths, with The Odd Bunch campaign.
Not only do supermarkets benefit with increased traffic and sales, consumers benefit with cheaper produce, the environmental impact is also reduced with less food wastage, and farmers are paid for produce that would otherwise have been thrown away.
What are the effects of food wastage?
Food waste begins at the farm, continues in the supermarket and ends with the consumer. An estimated 20-40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected before even reaching shops.1 This produce does not meet supermarkets’ and consumers’ cosmetic standards and expectations. This means that farmers are not paid for their labour, and the water, fuel and resources used to produce the food are also being wasted. Of the average household bin, food makes up to 40%, with more than half being fresh food and leftover food.1 This is a significant proportion of the average bin! Unsurprisingly, it has been calculated that the money wasted on discarded food per household could feed an average Australian household for a month!1 The environmental impact of food waste increases as food that ends up in landfill produces a potent greenhouse gas called methane, contributing to global warming and climate change.1,2
However services exist to provide relief to the hungry, reduce food waste and advocate for an end to food insecurity in Australia. Non-profit organisations rescue and redistribute surplus food to people in need, with SecondBite providing 25 million meals to date and Food Bank almost 40 million meals annually.3,4
How can I reduce food waste?
- Meal planning. Check the cupboard and fridge before going shopping to cook with ingredients you already have in the kitchen and only buy what you need.
- Get creative in the kitchen. Consult recipes and cookbooks to learn how to cook with different foods and reinvent meals.
- Get to know your food. Understand the difference between use by dates and best before dates and the correct storage for different foods to improve shelf life, keep food safe and save you money.5,6
- Cook only what you need. When cooking in bulk, place extra food in individual portions for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner and freeze any additional meals to keep it fresh for another day.
- Give your leftovers a makeover. Experiment with recipes using foods that needs to be eaten, such as eggs nearing their best before date or wilting spinach. Try this resource for handy tips on how to cook with leftovers.
- Take a break from takeaway. Avoid buying takeaway last minute instead of cooking with food you have at home.
- Grow a green thumb. Consider starting a worm farm or composting with food scraps with the handy tips from Food Know How.7
- Do Something! Fast facts on food waste [Internet]. 2015. Available from: http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/
- NSW Environment Protection Agency. Environmental impact. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/love-food/environmental-impacts.aspx
- SecondBite. [Internet]. Available from: http://secondbite.org/
- Food Bank. [Internet]. 2014. Available from: http://www.foodbank.org.au/
- Food Standards Australian New Zealand. Use by and best before dates [Internet]. 2012. Available from: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/labelling/dates/Pages/default.aspx
- Do Something! Storage [Internet]. 2013. Available from: http://www.foodknowhow.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Storage-ONLINE.pdf
- Do Something! Fact sheets and videos [Internet]. 2015. Available from: http://www.foodknowhow.org.au/waste-know-how/fact-sheets-videos/