Australians want to waste less food – but are unaware how much food they’re really throwing away | Fight Food Waste CRC

Fight Food Waste CRC Chief Executive Officer Dr Steven Lapidge today announced the release of the Food Waste: National Benchmarking Study Summary Report, Australia’s first comprehensive survey that benchmarks the household behaviours and motivations towards food waste of Australians. Food waste is a growing issue because it is a waste of resources all along the food supply chain, including the water and energy used on farm all the way through to the food getting from the supermarket to the fridge. When food is sent to landfill rather than eaten, it releases methane as it breaks down, which is a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

The national survey of over 5000 people finds that while most (76%) are strongly motivated to reduce the amount of food waste in their household, they underestimate the actual amount of food they throw away by up to two-thirds. Despite a recent national baseline finding nearly 2.5 million tonnes of food waste per year was created in Australian homes, or 4.9 kilograms per household per week, the average survey respondent estimated they threw away, for example, just 1.4 slices of bread per week and just one cup of vegetables or herbs. In total, people estimated they threw away around 2.65 litres of food waste per week – much lower than the 5 to 7 litres found in a range of other studies around the country.

Dr Lapidge says that he’s heard many times over the years that consumers don’t think that they waste food and that they feel guilty when they do.

“This is the first time in Australia we’ve had such a significant study into household behaviours and motivations toward food waste and it highlights the disconnect between consumer perceptions and reality. The Australian Government’s 2019 National Food Waste Baseline report found that Australians waste 298kgs per person per year with approximately 1/3 of that occurring in the home. Our new study shows that while most people do want to reduce their food waste, many of us are cooking more than we need to or not taking simple steps such as using up leftovers. And it’s costing households thousands of dollars a year.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said that the CRC’s report shows the widespread economic effects of food waste and outlines the ways households and organisations can cut it back.

“The study will be a benchmark for industry, research and the community to work together and capitalise on opportunities, which have the potential to save Australia$20 billion per annum in food waste,” Minister Andrews said.

“The Australian Government is committed to boosting our onshore plastic recycling industry, increasing Australia’s recycling rates, and continuing action to halve food waste by 2030.”

Key findings of Food Waste National Benchmarking study include:

  • The combined average reported food waste per household over 7 days, across vegetables and herbs,
    fresh fruit, dairy, meat and seafood, bread and bakery items, frozen foods, dry goods, drinks,
    leftovers and inedible food equated to 2.65 litres.
  • Almost one third of participants reported that they could not tell if something was safe to eat so
    disposed of it.
  • 51% of household food managers understood the meaning of both use by and best before food date
    labels.
  • 4 in 10 people (44%) reported making extra food’just in case‘ half the time or more
  • A third of people (33%) reported that at least half of the time, their fridge or freezer was too full
    tostore more food.
  • Less than half (47%) of Australian household food managers reported making use of leftovers most of
    the time and over a third (36%) rarely saved and ate leftovers.

Project Leader, Rebecca Bliss from Sustainability Victoria said that the survey was a collaboration of organisations across Australia that are well placed to drive the necessary changes to consumer behaviour in reducing food waste.

“We have every mainland state government and the ACT, Central Queensland University, Australia’s two largest food rescue charities Food Bank and OzHarvest, the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Program, plus Australia’s largest supermarket retailer Woolworths at the table for this project to help Australian consumers reduce their food waste.

“This group understand they are greater than the sum of their parts and for Australia to really make an impact and reduce its food waste, we need to be working together.

This initial survey, which was managed by the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in collaboration with the wider project team, is the first of a series of research into tackling household food waste to be delivered in coming years through the collaborative project.

Dr Steven Lapidge says that he is often asked what consumers can do to reduce their food waste and the answer is relatively simple; to use up what is in your fridge, plan meals before you go to the shops and to love your leftovers.

“We understand that Australians want to provide the best for their families, and we can do this by making the most of our food and saving ourselves money on our grocery bills at the same time. “

This report is the first step in providing the evidence on behaviours leading to food waste in households throughout Australia. By understanding these behaviours, the Fight Food Waste CRC and its participants will know where they can help Australian households to reduce food waste.”