Food waste unpacked

Posted on 20 September 2021

When you look in your bin what do you see?

If you're like most Australian households you will see a lot of food waste – in fact, one third of the average bin consists of food waste. This equates to one in five shopping bags ending up in the bin!

In Australia, the average person generates 312kg of food waste per year, which is made up of 70% edible food, such as leftovers, and 30% inedible food scraps, such as corn husks and eggshells.

While food waste occurs across the supply chain, from farms to homes, households are by far the largest contributors.

What’s the deal with food waste?

When food is tossed into the bin, we’re wasting more than a chance for a nice meal – we’re wasting the water, land and fossil fuels that went into growing, transporting, refrigerating, and packaging that food.

What is Australia doing about it?

Like other countries,  Australia, has committed to halving food waste by 2030 as part of its commitments under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.  

The Federal Government has committed $4 million to June 2024 to support food waste avoidance along the supply chain, from working with farms to better model how much food they need to grow, to household education campaigns to raise awareness about the issue.

SDG supply chain

However, a feasibility study on the National Food Waste Strategy, by Food Innovation Australia Limited, makes it clear that government and industry-led change alone is not going to get us there. A dramatic reduction in household food waste is key. This is where each one of us can chip in.

food waste graph by sector

How to cut your waste and save money

Vegetables, bread, fruit, bagged salad and leftovers in the bin. Sounds familiar? Food is wasted in the home when we buy more than we need, when we cook and serve too much at mealtimes, store our food incorrectly or throw out leftovers.

Here are easy steps we can take to dramatically reduce your food waste.

  • Track your trash

Many people experience an ‘aha’ moment when they track what they are tossing. Food Smart can help you to track your food waste. This free six-week program by Love Food Hate Waste, provides tools to help with meal planning, portioning, storage and using up your leftovers. Get started today at Love Food Hate Waste.  

  • Swap to lower-impact foods

Reduce the amount of highly processed and animal-derived products you purchase; these have the biggest climate impact if wasted. Low-cost, nutritious and lower impact staples like dried lentils and beans can be stored indefinitely without refrigeration. Check out the CSIRO’s Tuckerbox challenge to learn more about the sustainability and health ratings of some of our favourite foods.

  • Spin the Meal of Fortune!

Make it a habit to look in your fridge (all the way to the back!) and plan your next meal around what you already have – aka shopping at home. Skip the rigid recipes and make use of odds and ends from the fridge with an ‘anything goes’ meal like fried rice, veggie soup, casseroles and frittatas. You may discover new flavour combinations in the process.

If you have some ingredients but aren’t sure what you can make with them, check out FoodWise’s Recipe Finder or SuperCook for recipe ideas.

Use first notice in fridge

  • Outsmart impulse shopping

Make a list before you go to the shops and avoid shopping when you’re hungry, which can lead to impulse buying ingredients that don’t quite add up to a meal. Try a free grocery list app like Grocery Gadget to plan and collaborate on grocery shopping.

  • Delve a little deeper with the fighting food waste webinar
  • Looking to add new tricks to your repertoire? Check out this webinar with zero-waste guru and Waverley local, Lottie Dalziel, to get some great tips for buying, storing and making the most of the food you buy.

Want to learn more?

Stop Food Waste Australia is a partnership of organisations across Australia working to reduce food waste across supply chains.

OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organisation. They have amazing resources available including how to make the best use of your fridge, a meal planning shopping list and food waste saving tips. 

Sustainable Table is an environmental not-for-profit, that aspires to help people make the connection between the food on their plates and the state of our planet.

The great thing about tackling our food waste is the many daily opportunities to put our values into practice.  Every meal is another chance to build a habit that will help us halve food waste by 2030.

Please share with us your 'zero waste recipes' or your most helpful tips for reducing food waste at home.

Thanks for making cutting food waste second nature!

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