23 October 2009

Australia's Food Waste Bill Tops A$5 Billion

Reposting in full from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 16 October 2009

'Australians are estimated to waste more than A$5 billion worth of food and drink every year - and that figure is predicted to rise.

ABC reports that from uneaten takeaway to fresh vegetables that never quite make it to a meal, the waste bill for Australia's largest city is hitting new highs.

Sydney wastes about A$1 billion worth of food per year, and about 60 per cent, or more than A$600 million worth, is fresh food, according to Professor Phillip O'Neill from the University of Western Sydney.

"We throw out about A$130 million of uneaten takeaways," he said. "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 A$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."

Professor O'Neill says he believes the waste is a product of good intentions to buy fresh food and cook it at home.

"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 analysing Australia's wasteful ways. Dr Richard Dennis says the latest research is consistent with that of 2005.

"We found across Australia that people wasted around A$5 billion a year in food," Dr Dennis said.

"All states exhibited a high degree of waste, relatively consistent, but we certainly found that the ACT was the biggest waster in the country per capita.

"That's because average incomes in the ACT are really quite high, so perhaps not surprisingly the more we earn, the more we waste."

Dr Dennis says he is not optimistic there have been behavioural changes in recent times that may cause people to be less wasteful.

"We hear a lot more about environmental sustainability these days. Governments talk about reduce, reuse and recycle," he said.

"There's a lot of reasons to expect that the numbers would have changed, but I guess I'm not terribly optimistic that they will have."

Professor Phillip O'Neill presented at the Feeding Sydney Conference on 24 September:

Sydney's food value chain: A discussion paper
A presentation to the Hawkesbury Foundation Conference

This one day interactive Conference focused on the issues associated with feeding a growing world population at a time when available agricultural land and water supplies are declining and there is increasing pressure regarding sustainability of farming systems.'

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