Australian consumers throw away around 3.1 million tonnes of food—that’s close to 17,000 grounded 747 jumbo jets. Another 2.2 million tonnes is disposed of by the commercial and industrial sector.1
Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $20 billion each year. Food waste is not just wasted food, it also impacts the energy, fuel and water used to grow food that may not be used and instead is thrown away. Food waste that is sent to landfill contributes to greenhouse gas emissions creating further negative environmental impact.
To help address this important issue, the Australian Government committed in 2016 to develop a National Food Waste Strategy and to deliver a National Food Waste Summit. The strategy establishes a framework to support actions that work towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030. This ambitious goal aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 for sustainable consumption and production patterns.
On 20 November the National Food Waste Strategy was launched by the Minister for the Environment and Energy at the National Food Waste Summit. The culmination of many months of consultation with industry, academia, the not-for-profit sector, and all tiers of government, the Strategy establishes a framework to support actions that can help work towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030.
National support for the strategy has been provided by Australia’s environment ministers, and acknowledges the importance of addressing food waste and the impact it has on the environment, the economy and society.
Reducing food waste is a complex challenge due to the range of food types and their supply chains, and regulatory frameworks to support food safety and waste disposal. It also presents a number of opportunities to rethink how food waste can be prevented, or how wasted food can be used for other purposes.
The National Food Waste Strategy adopts a circular economy approach that takes into account the food waste hierarchy and seeks to capture food waste as a resource so it is not sent to landfill. The use of circular economy approaches and the waste hierarchy to address food waste demands a more strategic and collaborative approach. This will challenge to find solutions across the entire food system rather than continuing to operate within single, linear supply and consumption chains.
Managing Australia’s food waste
There are already a number of activities in Australia to reduce food waste. These include consumer education, investment in waste treatment infrastructure, waste diversion from the retail and commercial sector, food collection for redistribution, and research into high value uses for food waste such as composting.
Many local governments have identified the significant amount of food in their waste streams and are taking steps to reduce food waste through a range of programs including Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) recycling.
To read more http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/food-waste
1 SARDI (2015) Primary Production Food Losses: Turning losses into profit. South Australian Research and Development Institute, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia