A report from the Foodprint Melbourne Project – a collaboration between Melbourne University and local councils – estimates that an average Melburnian wastes about 200kg of food per year. This means collectively, as a state, we waste close to 1 million tonnes of edible food, enough to feed two million people a year.
Growing this wasted food uses 180 gigalitres of water each year (or 113 litres per person per day) and uses around 3.6 million hectares of land, which is more than 20 times the area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground! This uneaten food represents a waste of natural resources, given Australia is a water scarce region with only 6% of suitable land for growing crops. It is also responsible for around 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 60% of which is generated by food waste rotting in landfill, with the rest generated by producing the wasted food.
In one of Melbourne’s iconic food precincts, the Melbourne City Council has situated a recycling machine where businesses can dispose their organic waste to be converted into fertiliser. These machines, supplied by Eco Guardians, were first developed in South Korea, where food waste was banned from going into landfill 20 years ago. Eco Guardians have to-date supplied over 30 machines to hospitals, prisons and markets, with their next big target being inner-city households and high-density apartments where composting or worm farms are trickier to adopt.
Supermarkets and restaurants have also been taking initiatives in combating food waste by donating unsold surplus fresh food to charitable organisations such as SecondBite and FareShare. According to the report, more than 60% of food waste is generated simply because it does not pass the aesthetic criteria. Last year, Woolworth launched the ‘Odd Bunch’ campaign, aimed at educating consumers that ‘knobbly’ looking fruit and vegetables are perfectly consumable. In April this year, OzHarvest, a renowned food rescue organisation, opened Australia’s first rescued food supermarket in Kensington, Sydney.
There are numerous websites and articles offering ideas on how we, as consumers, can do our bit to reduce food waste, such as shopping smarter and better meal planning. We can also accept the ‘knobbly’ looking produce, while learning to be creative with leftovers, storing food better, composting or even joining a local co-op where neighbours can swap excess fruit and vegetables.
Some food for thought given the festive season is just around the corner.