We’re all living our lives the best we can to reduce the impact we have on our beautiful blue planet, but there’s one aspect a lot of us tend to forget about - our daily food waste.
The ABC’s War On Waste episodes have brought to light the incredibly concerning state of food waste in Australia – especially in the fruit and veg industry. People are throwing out ridiculous amounts of food every day, without thinking twice about the impacts of their waste.
- One fifth of all groceries bought in Australia are thrown away.
- The Government estimates food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion each year.
- Nearly three million people are living in poverty in Australia. One quarter are children.
Food waste has a nasty impact on our environment and those less fortunate. Every single food item you buy uses energy, water, and land to produce. If it's mass-produced, this means cutting down forests to grow, which impacts biodiversity at a global level and is having a dire effect on our wildlife populations. If it's locally sourced, consider the individual's hard work, time, land, and money that has been dedicated to growing it.
How can we put an end to Australia's food waste epidemic?
The UN recommends the government revisits regulations and standards for aesthetic requirements of fruit and vegetables - as one of the biggest food wastages comes from throwing out perfectly edible fruit and veg just because they aren’t pretty enough. In addition, they need to look at reducing food packaging, and most importantly, reusing within the food chain. This means donating surplus food to the vulnerable members of the community who need it, or, if it isn’t quite fit for humans, using it in animal feed or composting it.
While the government is responsible for implementing the large-scale changes to policies and supermarket standards, at the end of the day, we are the consumers, so our actions and words matter the most! Here are some simple ways you can reduce your own daily food waste.
First of all, always check what’s in your fridge before you shop!
Often there’s food tucked away in the back of the fridge that we forget about, so remember to rotate your stock. We don’t always need a full fridge either, it’s just our psyche wanting to fill in the gaps. Keeping a minimalist fridge is easier, cheaper and better for the environment.
Only purchase what you need.
This is a big one. A lot of us get trapped into buying things “just in case” or because a flashy special has caught our eye, but never end up using it and just throwing it away. Always go shopping prepared with a list, and shop in smaller, more frequent doses. While it’s perfectly fine to treat yourself, make sure you actually eat it!
Store your food the right way.
A lot of food goes bad purely because it isn’t stored well. Make sure to store your food in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. Brownie points if you use recyclable items like old jam jars and beeswax wraps to store your food instead of plastic clingwrap!
Meal prepping is great because it helps you sort out everything you’re going to eat in a week. It’s cost effective, time effective, and reduces food wastage too! However, we understand that sometimes you are just too busy to prep, in which case try to make meals with similar ingredients to those already in your fridge, and purchase only the little extras you need.
Love your leftovers!
Be creative in the way you use your leftovers - spaghetti bolognese can turn into shepherd’s pie, last night’s roast vegetables can be quickly tossed in a salad, and as we all know, pizza tastes better as a cold breakfast. Freezing leftovers can also mean you don’t have to cook tomorrow night, and it can be a lifesaver when you’re hangry and cramming for exams.
Savour your fruit & veg.
Many people tend to throw away fruit or veg as soon as they start to shrivel when really, they're still perfectly fine to eat! Wilting vegetables can be used in soups, stirred into curries or chopped up into your lasagne sauce. Overripe bananas can be frozen then used in smoothies or nice-cream (and they’re even sweeter this way too!), and apples that have lost their crunch can be chopped up, boiled and made into apple pie. There are so many ways you can repurpose old fruit and veg when they aren’t pretty.
Ugly fruit and veg is pretty on the inside.
Speaking of pretty fruits, we really don’t need our food to be so attractive as it all tastes the same! Check out your local fruit markets' “ugly veg” section – it's usually a lot cheaper so a win for your pockets as well!
Composting is key.
Lastly, try your hand at composting! This way your fruit & veg waste doesn’t end up wrapped in plastic bags and rotting in a landfill but can add nutrients to your soil and make your garden grow beautifully!
This might seem like a lot in writing, but in reality, they are tiny tweaks that we can all make to our everyday lives, that will make a huge difference.
Do you have any extra ideas on how we can stop Australia's food waste epidemic? Leave us a comment below :)