National strategy to tackle food waste launched

A national strategy to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030 has been launched, with Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg suggesting the “timing is right for new innovative technologies, practices and solutions”.

The National Food Waste Strategy will complement the work already underway to manage food waste in Australia, which is estimated to cost the economy $20 billion each year.

It’s estimated Australian consumers currently waste 20 per cent of the food they buy each year – roughly 3.1 million tonnes. The commercial and industrial sectors dispose of a further 2.2 million tonnes yearly. This costs the community $10.5 billion in waste disposal charges and lost product.

Furthermore, up to 25 per cent of all fruit and vegetables grown in Australia never make it off the premises, dumped because supermarkets and retailers consider blemished, undersized, or misshapen produce unsaleable.

Food waste and spoilage also occurs in the processing and manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors.

The strategy notes that Local Government has “a significant role in organising waste collection and processing or disposing of food waste”.

“Many local governments have identified a significant amount of food in their waste streams,” the strategy notes. “They are taking steps to reduce food waste through a range of programs.

“Some of these include information sessions and demonstrations on storing food and composting at home, grants and rebates for households to purchase compost bins and worm farms, and the roll-out of kerbside organic bins to divert food waste from landfill. For restaurants and cafes, pilot programs have been supported to assess their food waste practices and collectively divert waste from landfill to shared recycling facilities.”

The four areas identified as priorities to help reach the 2030 goal are: policy support, business improvements, market development and behavioural change.

Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) will start implementing the strategy, with funding of $1 million over the next 24 months. A steering committee will provide advice and guidance to FIAL in implementing the strategy.

FIAL is scheduled to finalise short, medium and long-term actions for the strategy by late 2018. The industry voluntary commitment program will be in place by early 2019.

The Commonwealth Government is investing more than $10 million to support research directly related to reduce food waste in conjunction with industry through AgriFutures Australia, Cooperative Research Centres, the Entrepreneurs’ Program, the CSIRO, and the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre.

The Federal Government has also committed $370,000 through its National Environment Science Program to help establish a National Food Waste Baseline and identify the best opportunities for return on investment in food waste. These will be delivered in the next 24 months.

Subscribe to The Environment Report