On average an Australian household discards 20% of the food they purchase. To put this into an easy to understand perspective, if you’re household shopper was to come home with ten bags of groceries, two of those bags would end up being thrown out in the end. Now, if you’re somebody that goes shopping every Sunday of the year and buy ten bags of groceries each shop you would end up buying 520 bags of groceries per year, 20% of which would end up being thrown out. That’s around 100 bags of groceries per year, which is a lot of food and money to be throwing out, around $1000 worth of products to be exact. Imagine how much you would appreciate that extra $1000 at the end of the year! Now you take that figure and think of all the households there is in Australia, that equates to around $8 billion worth of food per year. That’s right, $8 billion worth of perfectly fine food is thrown out a year, and that’s just in Australia alone. $8 billion, 4 million tonnes of ready to eat food is thrown out per year, just in this one country alone, quite an astonishing figure when you think about it. But “how”, “why” you might ask? Studies conducted by the New South Wales government shows us that the main reasons we throw out so much food is because simply we cook too much, don’t know how to use leftovers, we don’t check the cupboard or fridge before shopping or because food is thrown out mistakenly before the use by date, meaning that it was still perfectly fine for human consumption. You make think to yourself ‘well, what’s the problem its only affecting us as individuals, right?’. Wrong. Not only does it affect us as individuals and slowly burn a whole in our wallet but it also has an impact on the people producing a food; the farmers of Australia that we are MEANT to be helping out! It also has an impact on the environment. An estimated 20-40% of fresh produce, like the fruit we have in our lunchbox or the vegetables on our plate at dinner time don’t even make it to the supermarkets. This is because they are not up to the ‘standards’ set by us as consumers and by the supermarkets. All of this produce that farmers have slaved away at for months harvesting, just to have them thrown out before they even make it to the shelves because they don’t look physically appealing, when in reality there is nothing wrong with them and are more than alright to consume. This has an impact on the farmers as they have put time, water, fuel, resources and labour into harvesting these fruit and vegetables all in the hope to have them put on our plates. For all the food that is rejected, they have to work as hard as they can to try and produce more of it that is up to standards to have them put on the shelves. In hindsight this is costing our farmers money as they then have to pay for more products themselves such as fuel, water and pesticides to then produce more and keep up with the heavy demand. Now what can we do about this we may ask? Well, supermarket giant Woolworths have recently started a campaign known as ‘The odd bunch’. This campaign was started with the initiative to assist in the sales of crop for farmers, reduce food wastage and allow customers to buy fruit and vegetables at lower prices. ‘The odd bunch’ is simply fruit and vegetables not up to cosmetic standards because of imperfections or being odd shapes and sizes. Now, this is great campaign by Woolworths but imagine how much this would assist in the decline of food waste if all supermarkets around the world got on board.
The next big issue that food waste has on the world is pollution. Believe it or not, by throwing out your left over breakfast, lunch or dinner you are making an impact on the environment, you are directly contributing to climate change. As we all know, excess amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contribute to global warming and climate change. When wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, together with other organic materials it becomes the main contributor to the generation of Methane gas – a gas twenty-five times stronger than Carbon Dioxide (gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil). Not only does this have an effect on climate change, but it also affects things such as our waterways. These issues with our waterways are the result of landfills. The breakdown of food waste in landfill releases gases and nutrients. Too many nutrients have the effect to pollute our waterways and ground water. All of this is purely from just throwing out food.
The production of food also has a significant impact on our greenhouse and environmental footprint. Soils, water, natural resources and energy are used to produce, harvest, transport, process, package, distribute and market all of our food products. When food is wasted, the energy and resources invested in the supply chain to deliver food to our pantry and plates is wasted also. In Australia, the food supply chain is responsible for approximately 23% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Making it the second highest contributor to greenhouse gases, after power stations. Farming practices such as clearing, cultivating, irrigating, grazing, spraying, fertilizing and cropping to get food from paddocks to plates also impact our environment. Then adding the pollution caused by packing, processing and transporting this food, it really all adds up. Water is also a problem we face, the single largest impact Australian households have on water use is through food consumption, some of which is later wasted. Food accounts for about half of the water use in homes. Just think about all the water that is needed to grow fruit, vegetables, cereals, grains and livestock. Being one of the driest continents on earth means that we cannot afford to waste water through wasting our food.
What can we do about food waste you may ask? Well, as sad as it is unfortunately no we cannot wrap up all of our left over food and send it off to people who desperately need it and stop world hunger overnight, but what we can do is educate ourselves on the impacts food waste has on Australia and the world. If all of us became more educated on the effects it has on our world and did something to contribute to the decline of food waste we could more than definitely have a positive impact on the environment and process of the food cycle. Another way we could help is by donating to causes such as ‘SecondBite’. SecondBite is a company that redistributes surplus food to community food programs around Australia to aid people who are less fortunate. Food is donated by farmers, wholesalers, markets, supermarkets, caterers and events. Imagine the impact we could have on programmes like these if we also started contributing food that we would not use.
In conclusion, food waste is a major problem in today’s world and the more we could do to reduce it or find an alternative solution to throwing food away will lead to a positive future for the generations to come.