The Food Waste Problem in Australia
Food wastage is a complex issue with a simple fix. Throwing food wastage in the bin after a meal may seem reasonable. After all, it may not be enough to have leftovers tomorrow, and no one is offering to eat the leftover veggies and half-eaten chicken on the plate. However, food wastage is more than just a few scraps on the plate leftover from dinner ending in the bin. It is an issue impacting the economy, the environment, and your bank account.
Reducing food wastage is a vital step in boosting the Australian economy, protecting the environment, and saving some dollars. It is an important step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring millions of farm animals are not dying needlessly, and forests aren’t being cut down to produce unused food. It’s not just an environmental issue though, as it also has a substantial economic impact. In 2017, food wastage cost the Australian economy approximately 20 billion dollars as a result of 7.3 million tonnes of food waste. Whilst infrastructure and commercial businesses must evolve, it’s important to understand the importance of education in households.
Food wastage is an issue that begins long before the excess food goes in the bin after dinner, and here are some quick tips to help your household play its part in reducing food waste.
Practical Steps To Your Reduce Food Waste
1. Plan your meals in advance
The most practical advice to limit food wastage is to plan your meals. Planning ensures there is no excess food. This may mean 2-3 days worth of food, as opposed to a fortnight or weeks worth of groceries. Ingredients are also more likely to be consumed before their “use by” date. Planning your meals at the beginning of the week means you know what food to cook before its expiry date. Planning is cost-effective. You also won’t buy takeaway when you know you can cook and have some leftovers to eat in the fridge!
2. Shop with a list and only buy what you need
Buying in bulk can seem like a cost-effective way to shop, but studies suggest shopping more frequently and buying fewer items at a time can reduce food waste. Shopping with a list assists in avoiding buying unnecessary items and food that will only add to the wastage. Eating before you shop is a handy tip as well, as shopping on an empty stomach may also increase your grocery shop impulsivity. Don’t just buy because you ‘can’, buy because you ‘need’.
3. Cooking effectively
Cooking is a skill. Knowing to cook what you need will reduce food wastage. Cooking involves trial and error, so work on making just enough food. Be mindful of how potential excess food will be stored or disposed of in a considerate way. Think about this as your cooking. Cooking can also be a handy tool for relieving stress throughout the week. Cooking effectively means more leftovers, which means less time spent cooking!
4. Correctly storing food
Correctly storing food limits waste. Educate yourself on storing fruit and vegetables correctly. This will ‘result in less premature ripening and rotten produce’. For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions should never be refrigerated. These items should be kept at room temperature. Understanding expiry dates will help to recognise when food is actually past its expiry date. Cleaning your fridge regularly is another handy tool to ensure products are not forgotten about, and subsequently disposed of.
For more information on how to correctly store your ingredients, Sustainability Victoria website allows you to look up an ingredient and see the correct storage option.
5. Avoid the bin
Freezing food may also be an option, specifically processed food. (A quick tip for onions and garlic peels, carrot heads, celery heads. Those vegetable offcuts can be stored in a zip lock bag, and then frozen. Once you have enough vegetable offcuts you could make a vegetable stock). Excess food can be a resource for composting or recycling.
There are several recipes to use when avoiding binning food. OzHarvest has a dedicated recipe webpage to fight food wastage and provides solutions when dealing with excess food – this can also mean getting creative with leftover food (and improves your cooking skills).
The Overall Impact Of Our Food Wastage
Everyone plays a part in limiting food wastage. It may seem like a non-issue to throw some scraps or unused food in the bin but consider evaluating why you have excess food. Your behaviour can protect the environment and stimulate the economy. Using these practical steps can reduce the food waste problem and the carbon footprint caused by food wastage. Food rotting in landfill releases methane 28 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Methane has a disastrous impact on the environment. Planning your meals, to ensure you are not throwing out unused meat and vegetables, will also save you money in the long run. Compact shopping, more often with fewer items, will also ensure you are not spending money needlessly – whilst things may seem more attractive in bulk, ultimately, it may be more wasteful. Store food effectively. When you can, avoid putting food wastage in the bin!