News, Opinion

Report finds annual food waste bill tops $10 billion

Rabobank has released its Food and Farming Report that, among other insights, showed the average Australian household annual food waste bill is just over $1,038.

Nationally, the total sum of our food waste is $10.3 billion, enough to feed 1.1 million households (or roughly every household in Brisbane) for a year.

Overall, the report found that our household spending on food increased year on year by around $20 per week in 2021, meaning the average weekly grocery bill is $178.

The results also show that the more you spend, the more you waste, with Aussies who spent over $300 each week on food, wasting almost 17 per cent of their grocery shop.

“Last year’s report found that COVID-19 changed not only the way we work and socialise, but also how we buy and consume food,” said Rabobank Australia head of sustainable business development, Crawford Taylor.

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“Over the past 12 months, our food waste habits took a turn for the worse, and as many of us start to emerge from lengthy lockdowns, the results show these bad habits remain. While the numbers are significant, the report is based on what people think they waste, and as we never like to think the worst of ourselves, the truth is likely to be even more confronting.

“In Australia, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted across the supply chain every year, and around half of that is wasted by consumers. However, individuals do have the power to take action and have a positive impact on the amount of food thrown out across the country, while also saving themselves hundreds of dollars and reducing the substantial impact food waste is having on the environment and carbon emissions.”

Ditching the bad habits In 2021, we’ve been slightly less likely to adopt good food usage habits than in previous years – that is, taking small steps such as eating or making new meals with leftovers, freezing food, or planning meals.

Yet, the findings show that picking up some of these small habits could have a massive impact on the amount of food we waste – and the money we’re throwing out.

For example, if you always use your leftovers to make lunches for the week, you can save $364 annually, always using a shopping list when you buy your groceries can save binning $141, and if you always consider portion size when preparing a meal you can save up to $412 annually.

Over the past 18 months, online shopping has experienced a rise thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, with Gen Z and millennials the biggest adopters of online grocery shopping.

The survey results revealed that those who spend more online are also more likely to waste food. Younger generations are also more likely than older generations to spend more on meal delivery services – with almost two in five ordering at least once a week.

While ordering food delivered to your doorstep or getting takeaway from a local restaurant might be quick, easy, and convenient, consumers who always get meals delivered instead of cooking at home waste more food on average – around 20 per cent.

“The Rabobank report findings highlight a real need for greater awareness and education around food waste– as well as the wider impacts that food waste has on our climate and environment – particularly with younger Australians,” said Morten Belling, Menulog managing director.

From farm to fork The good news is that, according to the report, nearly all of us (96 per cent) have some concerns regarding food waste, up 4 per cent from last year, with impact on landfill, climate change, and pollution our biggest worries.

And 79 per cent of us – more people than ever – perceive food production as highly important. Globally, food waste produces 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Foods that end up in landfill decompose, releasing carbon dioxide and methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“Yet on average, we’re still binning 11% of the food we buy, with the main reasons for wastage including food losing its freshness, going off or people simply forgetting about it in the cupboard or fridge,” said Taylor.

“This is perhaps why it’s so surprising for a generation known for their concern for the environment, that Gen Z is the most likely to waste food while at the same time, being the generation most likely to believe that food waste impacts climate change and pollution.”