Food waste is food intended for human consumption which is then thrown away. It includes food items that are recycled to make compost.
Food is wasted at every point along the food supply and consumption chain. This includes food waste from:
- processing and transport
- hospitality operators
Australia’s problem with food waste
Food waste is a major problem in Australia. It has significant environmental and economic impacts. The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study reported that:
- Food waste costs the Australian economy around $36.6 billion each year.
- Each year Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the food supply chain. This equals about 312kg per person and can cost up to $2,500 per household per year.
- Food waste accounts for about 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
- Australia uses around 2,600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted. This equals the volume of water in 5 Sydney Harbours.
- The amount of land used to grow wasted food in Australia covers more than 25 million hectares. This is a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.
- As a sector, households generate the most food waste in Australia and are responsible for about 30% of the total. This equals around 2.5 million tonnes per year.
The food waste challenge
Reducing food waste is a complex challenge. The solution must consider how to reduce food waste across different parts of the supply chain, from farms to retailers. Food service settings and our own households also play an important role.
The choices individuals make have an impact on how much food waste we produce. These choices are influenced by people’s attitudes and behaviours towards food. Targeted behaviour-change interventions are therefore also a key part of the solution.
There are opportunities to further reduce food waste by:
- effectively redistributing surplus food to Australians in need
- repurposing potential food waste for use in other products.
Australia’s National Food Waste Strategy sets a goal to halve the country’s food waste by 2030. The strategy sets out a framework to support action to meet this target.
We are working across the entire food chain and all levels of government to deliver the National Food Waste Strategy. We are also collaborating with Stop Food Waste Australia to help with its delivery.
The strategy contributes to global action on food waste by aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12. This goal aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The 2017 Strategy establishes a framework of priorities and actions that will help to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030. Read the National Food Waste Strategy.
Stop Food Waste Australia is an independent governance entity focused on delivering the National Food Waste Strategy. Read more about Stop Food Waste Australia.
This 2019 action plan, and subsequent 2022 update, sets out targets and actions to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy. Read the National Waste Policy Action Plan.
This 2021 study provides updated baseline information on how much food waste Australia produces. It also includes recommendations for how Australia can meet its National Food Waste Strategy target. Read the National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study.
This 2020 roadmap provides a path towards halving food waste in Australia by 2030. Read A Roadmap for reducing Australia's food waste by half by 2030.
This 2020 report outlines information for governments and industries seeking to reduce food waste. Read Resources for implementing the National Food Waste Strategy.
Voluntary commitment programs are a tried and tested way to reduce food waste. They bring together organisations from across the food supply chain to reduce food waste. Read Voluntary commitment program policy document.
This 2019 study was the first detailed quantification of food waste in Australia. This baseline has been superseded by the baseline figures presented in the 2021 National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study.
The 2019 report is available from the National Library of Australia’s web archive.
National Food Waste Baseline – Executive Summary (PDF 357 KB)
National Food Waste Baseline – Executive Summary (DOCX 276 KB)
National Food Waste Baseline – Final Assessment Report (PDF 2.53 MB)
National Food Waste Baseline – Final Assessment Report (DOCX 1.8 MB)
The National Food Waste Summit (the Summit) brings together people with an interest in reducing food waste and how Australia’s food waste can be avoided or repurposed.
The Australian Government convened the first Summit on 20 November 2017.
Fight Food Waste Limited hosted the second Summit from 23 to 24 November 2022. This Summit discussed what action is required to meet the target to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030. It also showcased important work underway.
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