A research paper by RMIT University found that 40% of all food shopping is binned, a figure that is equivalent to 2.7m tonnes each year, prompting researchers to urge consumers to plan better for home consumption, regardless of their socio-economic status.
What a waste
The study supports findings by the Foodwise anti-waste campaign last year that Australian households waste A$8bn worth of edible food every year, having mapped the week-long cycle of household food waste in 24 households across the Melbourne suburbs of Ivanhoe, Greensborough and Heidelberg West.
RMIT found that 50% of household waste identified in council rubbish bins was discarded food, with fresh fruit, vegetables, pre-prepared meals, bread and cereals the most common items thrown out each week.
By looking at how households bought, stored, prepared and disposed of food, lead researcher Associate Professor Karli Verghese and her team found poor planning was the main reason for the wastage.
“Understanding food waste is more about shifting the everyday practices of buying, cooking and storing food that generate waste and less about what is being put in the bin,” Verghese said.
Buying more food than needed, poor storage, spoiled food, expired use-by dates and forgotten leftovers were other reasons food was binned.
Craig Langdon, mayor of Banyule Council, one of the sponsors of the study, said the findings would help the council tailor education programmes to reduce food waste across the council’s 51,500 households.
“One of the surprising aspects of the study was the little difference between the three [demographically disparate] suburbs, which indicates food waste is a universal problem,” he said.
“By implementing education programs that help households reduce food waste, it’s a win-win for residents and council with not only financial savings but a better environmental outcome with less rubbish going to landfill.”