A research project commissioned by sustainable tech company iugis found businesses don’t fully grasp the scale of the food waste problem, or how it relates to the climate emergency.
However, food waste was in the top three environmental concerns for SMEs, and its Sustainable Re-set report found a third of respondents were more concerned about sustainability and food waste than before COVID-19.
Iugis CEO Bill Papas said: “The research gives us a clear indication that Australians want a reset when it comes to food waste. Not only are we looking at governments to do more, but we recognise as citizens that we must tackle this issue head on.
“We are the fourth highest contributor to food waste per capita in the world and food waste costs the economy an estimated $20 billion a year. Reducing this figure will have a dramatic impact on our environment and economy.”
Iugis wanted to gauge business and consumer attitudes to sustainability and waste as the COVID-19 cloud lifts. The research, undertaken by YouGov, included 1024 consumers and 303 small and medium businesses (SMBs), who were surveyed online between 22-26 October 2020. The survey was divided into SMBs and consumers, which reflected two key national demographics. The survey data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.
The report said Australians are big culprits when it comes to food waste, with more than five million tonnes of food ending up as landfill – enough to fill 9000 Olympic-sized swimming pools or 24 Sydney Opera Houses. Around 35 per cent of the average household bin ends up in landfill as food waste – around 9kg each week.
It said that despite being concerned and potentially distressed about the issues of climate change and sustainability, Australians don’t fully grasp the scale of the food waste problem, or how it relates to the climate emergency. “We aren’t yet as a nation considering food waste as a significant part of the climate conversation,” it said.
It quoted US Food Recovery Network founder Ben Simon: “When we waste food, we’re not just wasting food. We’re also wasting all the resources that went into growing it. Growing food that goes to waste ends up using 21 per cent of our freshwater, 19 per cent of our fertiliser, 18 per cent of our cropland and 21 per cent of our landfill volume.”
In the study, nearly a fifth (18 per cent) estimated the food waste cost at just $5 billion – just a quarter of the actual cost.
“This underlines the need for a significant ramping-up in education about food waste. We don’t comprehend adequately the impact that food waste has on our future sustainability. This highlights the need for greater awareness about the environmental and financial cost of food waste, including providing education as well as practical tips on how to address the problem.
It found 59 per cent of Australians said that knowing the cost of food disposal would be the biggest motivator in changing their waste management behaviour. This low-cost solution has the potential to make a disproportionately high impact on our poor food waste track record, iugis said.
The full report is here.