Food waste scan­dal

Element - - Contents - More waste sav­ing tips are regularly posted to the Love Food Hate Waste NZ Face­book page; www.face­book.com/love­food­hate­wastenz By Nigel Parry

Ev­ery year Ki­wis sling 20 mil­lion loaves of bread in the bin that don’t have to go to waste. The av­er­age fam­ily chucks away 79kg of food we could have eaten, mak­ing a $560 dent in the an­nual house­hold bud­get. Across New Zealand, this adds up to $827m a year.

These are just a few sta­tis­tics from the latest New Zealand Food Waste Au­dits re­port from WasteMinz.

“The main is­sue is that peo­ple don’t re­alise how much they are throw­ing away and how much it’s cost­ing them,” says Jenny Mar­shall, stan­dard bearer for ac­tion group Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand. “Once they be­come aware, we see a sig­nif­i­cant change in be­hav­iour.”

Bread is the most com­mon cul­prit, with the warm and hu­mid Auck­land cli­mate of­ten mak­ing a loaf mouldy long be­fore it is fin­ished. Jenny’s sug­ges­tion is freeze half the loaf to keep it fresh. “Ac­tu­ally I usu­ally freeze the whole loaf and just de­frost what I need,” she says.

But while bread is the most bulky, the top cul­prit for mak­ing a hole in the fam­ily purse is chicken. It is among the most com­mon food thrown out and the higher cost in­creases the im­pact. “Peo­ple are con­cerned about chicken kept too long, and cooked leftovers.” she asks. “The fi­nan­cial im­pact is re­ally high.”

Again, sim­ple changes can make a dif­fer­ence. When you buy meat, in­stead of stor­ing it in the fridge, freeze and de­frost in the morn­ing. That way, if plans change one evening you aren’t throw­ing out good food.

Even if you can af­ford it, the en­vi­ron­ment can’t. Ev­ery time we throw food in the refuse sack, we are toss­ing away all the energy and re­sources that de­liv­ered it to us in­clud­ing fuel, pack­ag­ing and po­ten­tially pre­cious wa­ter.

The food waste re­search in­volved house­hold sur­veys and also delved into weekly rub­bish to dis­cover ex­actly what we chuck out. The list is sur­pris­ingly long, with a top 20 in­clud­ing bananas, bread, pota­toes, poul­try, or­anges, car­rots, eggs, broc­coli and av­o­ca­dos.

“We com­pare bet­ter than the UK,” Jenny says. “But com­pared to other coun­tries we don’t do so well.” UK fam­i­lies waste al­most half as much food again as Ki­wis. But in Sin­ga­pore food waste is less than half.

Dr Mi­randa Mirosa, a con­sumer food sci­en­tist from the Univer­sity of Otago, has been in­volved in food waste re­search. “We of­ten fall back on buy­ing what we know,” she com­ments. “Of course we can change. It may be as sim­ple as slow­ing down, mak­ing a list. They seem small triv­ial things but if ev­ery­body does it, it can have a mean­ing­ful im­pact.”

Jenny Mar­shall points to Den­mark, a coun­try with a sim­i­lar size pop­u­la­tion to New Zealand. There, a public cam­paign has al­ready re­duced food waste by 25%.

Closer to home, ac­tion is on the rise and not just in the bread depart­ment. Auck­land Chef Ben Bar­ton has used in­gre­di­ents we would nor­mally throw away to rus­tle up a de­li­cious menu. Tu­atara brew­ery is tak­ing waste from the beer-mak­ing process and turn­ing it into gourmet crack­ers. Count­down has been part­ner­ing with food char­i­ties.

Jenny Mar­shall de­scribes Love Food Hate Waste NZ as; “About help­ing fam­i­lies save money and min­imis­ing our im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.”

The cam­paign has been em­braced by 55 coun­cils around the coun­try. Ev­ery­one is a vol­un­teer work­ing in ad­di­tion to their nor­mal day job. They are pas­sion­ate about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, not only to the en­vi­ron­ment but to fam­i­lies who are strug­gling to make ends meet.

Auck­land Coun­cil is part of the cam­paign, and is go­ing one step fur­ther by sep­a­rat­ing food waste with the in­tro­duc­tion of a re­gion-wide or­ganic food waste col­lec­tion ser­vice, so it can be re­cy­cled. And if house­holds have to sep­a­rate out food waste, it is eas­ier to re­alise what is be­ing thrown away.

Waste not tips Buy less and shop more of­ten. Food is fresher and more likely to be used. Put some bread in the freezer un­til you need it. In­stead of dish­ing up a meal, put the dish in the mid­dle and al­low fam­ily mem­bers to help them­selves. Freeze meat and only de­frost in the morn­ing of the day you are go­ing to cook it.

Photo: Supplied

Food about to be weighed: A Wasteminz sur­vey of house­hold food waste in­cludes weigh­ing the dis­carded food each week.

Av­er­age avoid­able food: The av­er­age house­hold throws out $10 worth of food each week. All photos of food waste came out of peo­ple’s bins.

Bread 7.5kg: The av­er­age New Zealand fam­ily throws out 7.5 ki­los of bread each year.

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