Each year Australia wastes an average of 7.3 million tonnes of food, and now experts are calling for the urgent introduction of national sustainable consumption goals to help halve that figure within the next decade.
According to a new report, huge changes from policymakers, businesses and the public are needed to cut the 7.3 million tonnes of food waste in half.
The report’s key recommendations for national action include building food waste reduction into national climate policies, and adopting a ‘target, measure, act’ approach to enable at scale food waste reductions.
Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) and OzHarvest have joined forces to develop a policy brief, which outlines the steps Australia must take to achieve target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030). The SDGs are a set of 17 interlinked goals that were adopted by all nations in 2015 to offer a long term, sustainable vision for the future.
“Australia still has an opportunity to forge collective action on goal 12.3 but will need to act quickly and at scale to see results before 2030,” Monash’s Professor John Thwaites said.
“This report is Australia’s shopping list for the essential ingredients to achieve this target, which has great social, economic and environmental benefits and contributes to other [goals such as] zero hunger and climate action.”
The aim of SDG 12 is to do more with less, decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
But reducing Australia’s food waste by 50% will also have serious economic benefits — food waste currently costs the national economy $20 billion each year, according to the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre.
Annually Australian households produce about 2.5 million tonnes of food waste and the report’s authors say more can be done to inspire consumer action to help curb the problem. Giving further gravity to the issue is the fact that there are 5 million Australians experiencing food insecurity each year.
OzHarvest CEO Ronni Kahn said her ‘food rescue organisation’ understood the size of the challenge Australia faced trying to cut its food wastage in half. Since OzHarvest was established in 2004, the organisation has saved over 65,000 tonnes of food from landfill and delivered more than 185 million meals.
“This report aims to spark a national conversation on what needs to be done and with only nine years to go, the huge changes that are needed from policymakers, businesses and the public,” Khan said.
While Australia already committed to halve its foot waste by 2030 with bi-partisan support to try and reach this goal five years ahead of schedule, the report authors say more should be done to engage the entire food production supply chain to meet this deadline.
MSDI and OzHarvest called for more federal and state government funding that will cut food waste across key sectors, and deliver grants incentivising more business to take action. As for the private sector, they want to see more businesses sign up to Australia’s new Food Pact (delivered by Stop Food Waste Australia)
The report also recommended that the environmental consequences for food waste, including the impact of methane produced by rotting food in landfill, is a reason to incorporate food waste targets in greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies.