Australians throw out three million tonnes of food every year – the equivalent of 145 kilograms for each and every one of us. This equates to a cost of $6 billion in food – enough to feed the entire nation for three weeks.
Current research suggests the majority of food thrown away is fresh fruit and vegetables. Meat, fish, bread, dairy, rice and pasta are all in the ‘top’ most wasted foods.
Over recent decades there has been a trend away from burning and burying waste in favour of recycling and re-using it. Since the 1970s, backyard incineration and open burning at landfills has been declining because of concern for the impact on human and environmental health. Increasing restrictions on burning and waste disposal and increasing prices for dumping in landfill have contributed to demand for better options, along with a growing community awareness of the sheer scale of food waste coupled with an ever-increasing need for support for people who have difficulty getting enough to eat.
Within industry, water efficiency, waste minimisation and recycling initiatives are critical objectives for businesses looking to improve food production methods. Increasingly there are options to reduce food waste by redirecting unwanted product to food banks or charity.
In recent years the laws that previously prevented these foods from being used by charities have been revised to specifically allow for this use of perishable products. Now, thousands of people are fed with food that previously had to be dumped.
Two of the best-known organisations assisting with this are Foodbank SA and OzHarvest Adelaide. Foodbank SA aims to collect and redistribute quality pantry foods. They will collect surplus foods from manufacturers, distributors, retailers, growers, wholesalers and agents. OzHarvest collects food from registered food businesses for redistribution to charities running programs providing meals.
The intensification of agriculture and increase in food production has led to an increase in the production of food co-products and wastes. While there is no simple solution to how we get rid of the vast amount of waste produced daily, there are plenty of ways to control, manage and reduce this waste.
Businesses are now adapting their manufacturing procedures to decrease waste, energy and water use, as well as exploring ways of re-using waste or by-products. Smarter use of by-products and improving the management of wastes that cannot be re-used is now considered best practice in different sectors of the food industry.
Trade waste is generally defined as the liquid waste from any industry, business, trade or manufacturing premises, other than domestic sewage, which is disposed to the sewer. SA Water oversees trade wastes in South Australia, covering all types of premises, including kitchens in commercial buildings to laundromats, workshops, car washes, dentists, through to tanneries, breweries and abattoirs.
Who can help?
Environment Protection Authority
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is South Australia’s primary environmental regulator, responsible for the protection of air and water quality, and the control of pollution, waste, noise and radiation. Businesses of all sizes have not only realised significant economic gains as a result, but have taken a step in the right direction towards achieving a sustainable future for their enterprise and community.
Foodbank SA operate programs targeting school breakfasts, Christmas hampers, indigenous communities and nutrition education as part of their activities centred around the collection and redistribution of excess pantry foods from donor businesses. They have warehouses at Edwardstown, Mt Gambier, Whyalla and in the Riverland. Foodbank SA accepts all food groups, including ambient, chilled and frozen foods, which are managed in accordance with best practice and HACCP requirements and distributed to the needy through welfare groups.
OzHarvest Adelaide works with registered food businesses to collect surplus product and meals for immediate redistribution through charities. Businesses supporting OzHarvest include caterers, bakeries, restaurants, wholesalers and hotels.
Zero Waste SA
In South Australia, a dedicated government agency – Zero Waste SA – was set up to cater with the growing need to increase waste avoidance and recycling. Zero Waste SA has jointly developed the state’s first waste strategy with state and local government agencies, the waste management industry, business and the community, to ensure a healthy environment for South Australians, now and into the future. Zero Waste SA provides grants to local councils, the waste industry and business for a range of waste management projects including infrastructure, technology, systems and the Resource Efficiency Assistance Program (REAP), designed to assist medium to large businesses to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Zero Waste SA also assists industry to develop markets for recovered resources and recycled materials, and encourage businesses to adopt lean manufacturing principles to reduce waste.
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Unique approach to waste
Waste is now being used to make a range of plates and bowls, flower pots and golf tees.
Waste use for good
Rural Solutions SA helps businesses convert previously discarded waste into fertiliser or into irrigation management systems with the goal of helping them extract the most from primary production for environmental protection and profit.
The Foodwise campaign was launched by the Do Something! group to encourage Australians to be more aware of the food they eat, where it comes from and what gets wasted. Foodwise aims to educate and encourage us towards more sustainable food sources and better eating and, in the process, reduce the environmental costs of food consumption in this country.
Waste reduction for businesses
Innovative South Australian businesses are seizing ‘wasteful’ opportunities and turning them to their advantage. This document outlines waste reduction targets.