Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year having a significant impact on the environment and global economy. Reduce your food waste with these seven simple tips.
What is food waste?
Food waste is the loss or wastage of food or food products. This not only constitutes food that you didn’t finish on your plate, but also the food that gets thrown away from your fridge and pantry, off cuts of food products, out of date food left at the supermarket, food products lost in transportation, or ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables that didn’t meet the criteria to enter the supermarket. According to OzHarvest, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted around the world per year, with Australia alone contributing to over 7.3 million tonnes.1,2
Why is reducing food waste important?
The impact of food waste costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion each year.3 Not only is this a great economic loss, but the rotting of food in landfill releases powerful greenhouse gases that, as we know, are a main contributor to climate change. Accordingly, reducing food waste by improving our day-to-day choices can help to reduce the environmental and financial impacts.
7 tips for reducing food waste
1. Shop smart
Shop smart by writing a shopping list prior to visiting the supermarket. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t last as long as non-perishable food items such as tinned beans, rice and pastas. Having a shopping list will help to ensure you only buy what you need, thus reducing food waste at home.
2. Store food properly
Proper food storage can help to extend the life of your food, thus aiding in reducing food waste. For example, if you’re looking to preserve the life of the fruit in your fruit bowl, avoid keeping bananas and apples in the same bowl as your other fruit! This is because bananas and apples produce a large amount of ethylene gas when they ripen which speeds up the ripening process of other fruits that are nearby! This is super handy when you're looking to speed up the ripening process of fruit, but when you're looking to extend the life of fresh produce it’s best to keep them away.
Learn more food storage tips in this article.
3. Keep your fridge and pantry organised
Most of us have food in our fridge and pantry that we have forgotten is even there! Keeping an organised fridge and pantry can help to reduce the likelihood of food spoiling and ending up in the trash.
Apply the ‘first in, first out’ principle. This means shuffling newly purchased products behind older products in your fridge and pantry to ensure the older ones are eaten first. Further, schedule in regular clean-outs of your fridge and pantry to ensure that you are using foods that are nearing their expiry date.
4. Know the difference between ‘use-by’ and ‘best before’ dates
The use by date on packaged foods tell us when it is safe to eat the product. If a food product passes the use-by date, it should not be consumed due to health and safety risk and cannot legally be sold.4 Use by dates are typically found on perishable food items such as chilled meat and dairy products.
Best before dates are more flexible than use by dates. After this date, foods are generally still safe to consume and can be legally sold however may have a loss in quality (e.g. changes in flavour, colour, texture or nutritional composition).4 Best before dates are typically found on non-perishable foods items such as beans, legumes and pastas.
5. Be savvy with your leftovers
Instead of throwing last night's leftovers in the trash, try to use it in a new and interesting way!
6. Get creative with foods that would otherwise be discarded
Instead of throwing away overripe fruit or vegetable scraps, get creative and repurpose them in other dishes or snacks.
Use leftover herbs or greens to make a Pesto or chimichurri sauce
Freeze herbs in ice cube trays for use in sauces or smoothies
Freeze overripe fruit or vegetables for smoothies
Preserve or ferment vegetables such as cabbage, cucumber and beetroot
Use the tops, stalks and peels of vegetables to make homemade stock
Use peels from citrus fruits, apples and cucumber to flavour your water
Use the whole veg - seeds, skin and all. Try my Wholesome Pumpkin Bread to see how I used the whole pumpkin in this recipe
7. Repurpose your waste by composting
Instead of throwing your food scraps into the trash, throw them into a compost! Composting is a natural process where microorganisms biodegrade food waste, turning it into a dark, earthy, nutrient-rich material that promotes healthy soil that will help your garden to thrive. A common misconception of composting is that it is complicated and messy. However, this isn;t the case. Composting serves as an easy and environmentally friendly way to get rid of food scraps. Not only does composting help to reduce the amount of food waste that goes into landfill, therefore lowering the amount of methane gas that it is produced, it also improves soil structure, water retention and microbes that protect against some plant diseases.5
Whether you live on a large block of land, or in a small apartment, there is a composting system that will work for you. To find out how to start composting, check out this article by ecobin.
The bottom line
Food waste costs the global economy nearly $1 trillion each year and has a negative impact on the environment by contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The good news?
If everyone takes small steps to reduce food waste by altering their day-to-day choices, we can lessen the burden of food waste on the global economy and environment.
This article was co-written by dietitian Rachel Hawkins.