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Food Waste

By Alan Hewett, Trust For Nature Covenanter

In our family growing up we were expected to eat everything on our plates at meal times. The idea of wasting food was anathema.

Today in our household I still feel guilty if I leave a morsel. Any food scraps are composted or fed to the chooks, nothing goes in the bin. However, the amount of food waste throughout the world is truly staggering.

Every year one third of all food produced in the world for human consumption, about 1.3 billion tonnes, is either lost or wasted. The economic cost is estimated at US$680 billion for industrial countries and US$310 billion for developing countries. Yet 795 million people on this planet go to bed hungry every night, that’s one in nine.

In Australia we throw out $8 billion of edible food every year, nearly 4 million tonnes. For the average household that’s 525 kg at a cost of over $1,000.

A significant amount of food is spoiled or squandered before it is even eaten by people. Between 20-40% of fruit and vegtables are rejected before they reach the shops because they don’t reach consumer and supermarket’s high cosmetic standards.

The environmental consequences of food wastage are many. When food is sent to landfill it rots and creates methane gas – a gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon and contributes significantly to global warming.

There are continual demands to clear native vegetation for more agriculture, why? We are already producing more food than we consume.

Food wastage contributes to significant loss of resources: land, water, labour and capital. When you throw out that unused milk consider that it takes 1000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk.

Food labelling, often confusing and inconsistent, adds to food wastage. ‘Use –by’ is the date food should be consumed by but products with ‘Sell-by’ and ‘Best-by’ still have significant shelf-life and need not be discarded.

There are other measures that can reduce food wastage. Shop more wisely, use a list and don’t buy too much. Meal portions should be smaller and if there are leftovers make sure they are eaten. The correct storage of food can prolong usage. Don’t overstock the ‘fridge and forget about the contents. Donate excess produce to food banks. Start a worm farm and compost.