Australian food waste at worrisome levels

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 12th October 2009

Australians waste over $5 billion worth of food every year, according to research, and the problem is just getting worse.

Fresh food is the major contributor as consumers bite off more than they can chew when they visit the supermarket.

Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, is not surprisingly the leader when it comes to waste, with a study from the University of Western Sydney highlighting that
the annual waste bill now tops $1 billion. Six hundred million dollars worth of which is fresh food, with a substantial amount of takeaway food added to that.

“We throw out about $130 million of uneaten takeaways,”  Professor Phillip O’Neill, from the University of Western Sydney, said – according to ABC Online. “The things that we actually cook, that’s after the fresh food is brought into the house, the value of what we throw out in leftovers is about $180 million.”

“The reality is we are throwing out more than we are prepared to pay the farmers in the Sydney basin who grow it.”

The researchers believe the high waste bill is the product of unfulfilled, yet worthy intentions.

“I think by the end of the week our good intentions have been eroded by our busy lives, about the ease of a takeaway or an eat-out,” he said.

The Australia Institute conducted a similar study a few years ago, discovering that the problem was widespread across the nation, with Canberra the worst on a per capita basis.

UK a world leader

The United Kingdom has arguably been leading the way in looking to tackle the issue as concerns about food security reign. Research in the country has indicated that the introduction of use-by dates for fresh produce with the help of new technology could assist the situation, while ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deals and ‘best before’ dates are under the spotlight – among other things.

The UK Government said ridding products of ‘best before’ dates could assist as such dates are only indicative of when the product is at its optimum and not when it is safe to eat, meaning that people are far too often disposing of safe food.