Why we need to reduce food waste
Food waste, whether it be food that never leaves the farm, food that is lost during transport, or food that is wasted from the hospitality sector and households, has significant economic and environmental impacts:
- One third of the world's food is wasted.
- 25% of water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is ultimately wasted – throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90 minute shower.
- Food waste produces eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste was a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the USA and China.
Food waste is also a major problem in Australia. The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study produced by Food Innovation Australia Limited reported that:
- Food waste costs the economy around $36.6 billion each year.
- Each year we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain – this wastage equals about 312kg per person, equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
- Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
- Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
- The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers in excess of 25 million hectares, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.
What is the Australian Government doing about it?
Australia has set a goal to halve its food waste by 2030, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.
Some of these actions include:
- Establishing Stop Food Waste Australia to support the National Food Waste Strategy
- A $4 million investment to establish Stop Food Waste Australia, which will implement the Australian Food Pact, sector actions plans, and other initiatives to reduce food waste across the supply chain.
- Developing the Australian Food Pact voluntary agreement for industry
- The Australian Food Pact brings together organisations from all parts of the food chain to identify solutions to reduce food waste and increase productivity
- Diverting more food to the food rescue sector
- Redistributing food that would otherwise be wasted will help feed the more than one in five Australians who do not have adequate access to food
- Support for education campaigns
- Increasing public awareness about the scale of the food waste problem and its negative impacts is an important part of reducing food waste, particularly in households
- Research and technological improvements
- Investment in agricultural efficiency and innovation, waste treatment infrastructure, and ways to create value from food waste will reduce the amount of food waste ending up in landfill
Australian Government’s role
- Provide national guidance and plans for reducing food waste.
- Support and encourage state, territory and local governments to continue work on food waste programs and policies.
- Conduct national waste reporting to consolidate key national waste and recycling information, including food waste data, from the states and territories.
On 2 September 2021, the Assistant Minister for Waste and Environmental Management launched the National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study (the Feasibility Study).
Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) commissioned the Feasibility Study to provide recommendations for governments and industry on how Australia can meet the National Food Waste Strategy’s target to halve food waste by 2030.
The paper provides updated information on how much food waste is produced in Australia, and outlines food waste hotspots and an evidence-base supporting new recommendations.
The National Food Waste Strategy was launched on 20 November 2017 by the Minister for the Environment and Energy at the National Food Waste Summit. The Strategy establishes a framework to support actions that can help work towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030.
Implementation of the strategy is supported by a $1.37 million investment:
- $1 million in funding was provided by the Australian Government and the states and territories over two years to Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) to develop the resources required to implement the strategy.
- FIAL has delivered a roadmap and accompanying resource document that sets out the short and medium to long-term actions to support reductions in food waste. FIAL has also developed the framework for an industry voluntary commitment program to engage business in food waste reduction activities.
- $370,000 from the Department's National Environmental Science Program (NESP) to deliver the National Food Waste Baseline and a return on investment study.
Expert guidance and advice on the development of these documents was provided by the National Food Waste Strategy Steering Committee, which was established in February 2018 and included representation across the entire food supply and consumption chain. The Steering Committee concluded their term on 30 June 2020.
The Roadmap for reducing Australia's food waste by half by 2030 provides a clear path forward to halving food waste in Australia by 2030 and documents the main steps and initiatives that will be required to meet this ambitious target. The roadmap also highlights the opportunities for all levels of government, industry, and key stakeholders to contribute towards the goal of halving food waste by 2030.
The Resources for implementing the National Food Waste Strategy provides information for governments and industries across the food value chain seeking to reduce food waste.
Voluntary Commitment Programs are a tried and tested way to reduce food waste. The Roadmap for reducing Australia's food waste by half by 2030 identified voluntary commitment programs as playing a significant role in delivering the National Food Waste Strategy.
This paper provides the technical and policy context for tackling food waste and the role and potential effectiveness of a voluntary commitment program in helping to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030.
On 20 March 2019, the Minister for the Environment announced the key findings of Australia’s National Food Waste Baseline.
The National Food Waste Baseline provides a benchmark for measuring national performance against the reduction target, by establishing a consistent framework to quantify food waste generation and to track progress.
- In 2016-17 (the base year), Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the supply and consumption chain
- Of this, 2.5 million (34 per cent) was created in our homes, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) in primary production and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) in the manufacturing sector
- Australians recycled 1.2 million of food waste, recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses for the food waste and disposed of 3.2 million tonnes.
The National Waste Policy Action Plan creates targets and actions to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy.
- Reducing total waste generated in Australia by 10 per cent per person by 2030
- Establish a voluntary commitment program
- Develop and publish a National Food Waste Implementation Plan
- 80 per cent average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030
- Halve the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030
- Report on options to increase the recovery of organics from all waste streams
- Provide support to develop infrastructure solutions to process organic waste
- Make comprehensive, economy-wide and timely data publicly available to support better consumer, investment and policy decisions.
For more information on the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy, please contact the Department at email@example.com