Food Waste 101

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Second-grade capsicums from a local grocer. These quickly became roast capsicum soup!

So, pushing aside the awkward first-post opening curtain, I thought i’d dive right into the nitty-gritty. Food waste.

Now let’s clarify from the get-go that there is a two distinctive types and reasons why food that is intended for consumption is never consumed. FOOD LOSS is where food never reaches us due to things such as pests and disease on farm, or perhaps the food spoiled on the way to us consumers. FOOD WASTE is more superficial, based often upon appearance or lack of proper storage and organisation, food that is or once was perfectly edible is not utilised.

Collectively, food loss and waste is responsible for a third of all food we produce never being eaten! That effectively means that a third of all farms and farmers across the world, plus the resources such as water, nutrients and energy that they use, are for nothing. Harsh words, but they are the facts.

And guess who are the biggest food wasters? Surprise surprise, it’s industrialised nations with an on average 95-115 kg/year of food being wasted per capita.

You might be screwing your face up in indignation at that figure right now, thinking something along the lines of ‘Oh I surely can’t waste that much!’. I challenge you to go right now and rummage through your bin (yes!). It’s actually quite interesting/surprising/stinky/shocking at the amount of food that we throw into our bins everyday. In my own bin, which I gingerly pawed through, I found mostly food packaging, along with the remaining quarter can of baked beans, a small amount of fetta, and some oily-tuna dregs. To be fair though, we compost a lot of our food scraps, i’ve been a food waste nazi for some time, and I have a teenage brother. So not much is wasted in this household.

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The reality of food waste/loss- it could have fed someone. Source: OzHarvest

So why do we waste food? Studies have shown that often because of the abundance and availability of food, coupled with decreasing prices and a general lack of knowledge, food waste has become ‘normalised’. In the household setting, food comprises 40% of the average Australian household’s bin. Often food is wasted because we just don’t know what to do with it. Bought on a whim (‘it was on special!’) or we only used part of it, so it sits in our fridge/pantry, waiting for us to eat it, as it slowly wilts or succumbs to the hairy scourge of mould.

So in the case of the baked beans, my dad used it for his lunch one day. He and mum used up a bit more of it the day after. But then the last little bit got shoved back into the fridge and forgotten about, before it was ‘found’ a week later and with a whiff from mum was swiftly thrown into the bin. Fair enough, it probably wasn’t safe anymore to eat. But it could have been, if it was saved earlier.

Other reasons why we waste food at an individual level according to Foodwise is because we cooked too much, didn’t check the fridge/pantry before going shopping, misreading of the use-by date, and simply buying too much.

Of course though, there is also larger institutional food waste that occurs here in Australia and in other industrialised nations. Produce is often rejected due to it’s looks, whether that be a slight blemish on the skin, or perhaps it’s not quite the right shape. Conformity is key, so anything that doesn’t meet market standards is rejected, often not even getting onto shelves, usually ending up as landfill. Looks has nothing to do with flavour or nutritional value, and in fact some of the ugliest fruit can be in fact the tastiest!

Food waste such as this is easily avoidable, and slowly supermarkets have begun changing their approach to ‘wonky fruit and veg’. Spearheaded by campaigns in France and by groups such as Youth Food Movement here in Australia, wonky produce has made it’s way onto our shelves and into the spotlight. From Harris Farm Markets ‘Imperfect picks’ range to Woolworths ‘Odd bunch’ range, tracks are being made to reduce institutional food waste. In fact Woolworths recently partnered with the food rescue group OzHarvest in it’s aim to eliminate food sent to landfill by 2020.

Feeling impassioned to combat food waste in your house? Keep an eye out for my next post where i’ll detail some steps you can take plus a collection of books and websites to check out to help you on your way.
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One thought on “Food Waste 101

  1. Pingback: First steps to combatting food waste in your own home | theintertwinedfoodie

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