According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year; that’s one-third of all food produced worldwide either spoilt in transit or thrown out by consumers. Australia is one of the highest food-wasting countries per capita, ranked fourth in the world.
With limited arable land and climate change already affecting the country’s ability to sustainably grow food, Australia will need to do all it can to use resources efficiently, particularly as its population is expected to grow by 350,000 people per year.
Sustainability in food production was the topic on 1,400 of Australia’s greatest agricultural minds as they came together to attend Rabobank’s one-day Farm2Fork summit held at Cockatoo Island. The industry’s best and brightest producers, researchers and visionaries learning and sharing about the latest innovations and sustainability best practices within the sector.
In a custom-built 27.5m food truck at the event, the Rabobank Food Waste Report was also released, providing insightful data regarding food waste in the Australian context.
“As our population increases, we will struggle to feed additional mouths,” said Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience at Rabobank Australia and New Zealand. “If we don’t curb our waste, we could run out by 2050. While the reduction in food waste is a global responsibility, we all – as individual consumers – can play a significant role in sustaining this planet for generations to come.”
Polling 2,300 household decision makers between the ages of 18 to 65, the survey revealed some startling insights about Australian behaviour when it comes to grocery shopping and food waste, breaking it down by gender, age and location.
Here are the report’s key findings:
Australians are conscious of food waste, but still waste lots
Australian consumers are aware of the importance of reducing food waste. From 2017 to 2018 there was a 7% reduction in food waste, $9.6 billion to $8.9 billion. At the household level, this represents a food waste decrease of 13.5% in 2017 to 11.4% in 2018.
However, the report found that Australians are still wasting lots of food; $8.9 billion worth of food was wasted in 2018 or roughly $890 of food wasted for the average Australian household.
“While it is pleasing that Australian consumers are wasting less food compared to 12 months ago, there is clearly much to do to raise awareness about food production and waste and more urgently implement better practices to reduce waste — while also improving the finances of all Australians,” said Wealands.
The four main reasons for food waste are: food going off before it can be completely consumed (75%), buying too much (45%), food not being as good as expected (37%) and not planning grocery shopping sufficiently (34%).
The food waste breakdown across the country
Baby boomers are the generation most annoyed with food waste and cares the most about reducing it, according to Rabobank’s research. This generation was least likely to waste food, binning just 7% of their food or $430 worth of food annually.
Compare this with the habits of millennial Australians aged 36 and under, those belonging to generation Y and X. The report found that these generations are more willing to pay extra for food that is produced sustainably (ie. humane or certified organic) but are much more likely to exercise bad habits and waste it, binning $1,200 worth of food in 2018.
There is also a notable difference between the habits of urban and regional dwellers. The research found that the closer a consumer lived to the food source, the less likely they were to waste it. Thus, city dwellers were more likely to waste food, 13% of food wasted weekly ($995 per year) compared with 10% ($739 per year) for their rural counterparts.
The report also found that consumers who have higher household income are more willing to pay more for locally produced food, and are more likely to buy directly from the grower or farmer, however they also waste more, averaging 14.6% of food waste.
From a gender perspective, men wasted more than women, $927 a year compared with $854 thrown out by women. The research found that women were also more likely to be annoyed when they wasted food and when they see others waste food or are not considerate of their environmental impact.
With Australians leading busier lifestyles, convenient ’on demand’ food delivery services are increasingly popular. However online grocery shopping is also driving food waste. The research found that those who shop for groceries online and use food delivery services are significantly more likely to waste food than those who do not, 15.2% compared to just 8.4%.
People with kids also faced additional challenges, with 41% of them acknowledging that food was wasted because their kids didn’t eat the food that was prepared for them.
How to reduce food waste
Want to reduce food waste and stop throwing precious money and resources? Here’s what you can do to curb food waste:
- Check the fridge and use up what’s already in there before going shopping for more
- Preplan meals in advance. For example, spend some time on Sunday planning meals for the week ahead.
- Plan grocery trips and always use a shopping list so you only buy what you need
- Don’t over order when dining out or ordering in
- When preparing food and cooking, consider portion sizes
- If there are leftovers, freeze them or take to work and eat for lunch the next day
- Compost food scraps and any waste
- Grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables as you are less likely to waste food you’ve grown yourself
To access the annual Rabobank Food Waste Report, click here.
Disclosure: Eco Warrior Princess attended the event and prepared this post in partnership with Rabobank. For further information about our policies, click here.