Woolworths diverts food waste

In an effort to tackle the $20 billion Australian food waste problem, Woolworths have implemented active food waste diversion programs in 100 per cent of its supermarkets.

Woolworths Head of Sustainability Adrian Cullen said the company have recorded an eight per cent year-on-year reduction in food waste sent to land over the past three years.

“Food is meant to be eaten, not thrown – which is why together with our customers, our farmers and our community partners, we’re working to keep good food out of landfill,” Mr Cullen said.

According to Mr Cullen, Woolworths last year diverted over 55,000 tonnes of food and enabled over 10 million meals to be delivered to Australians in need across the country.

“Working with our partners OzHarvest, Foodbank and Fareshare to feed Australian’s who would otherwise go hungry is our number one priority when it comes to diverting food from our stores,” Mr Cullen said.

“We then work with local farmers so that surplus food, which cannot go to hunger relief, is used as stock feed for animals or for on-farm composting. This helps us further reduce and re-purpose bakery and produce waste.”

Mr Cullen said over 750 farmers and community groups have joined the Woolworths Stock Feed for Farmers program.

“Last year Australian farmers received more than 32,000 tonnes of surplus food from Woolworths that was no longer fit for human consumption.”

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Fight Food Waste Research Centre launches new program

A new research program launched by The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre will investigate the transformation of food waste into valuable products.

Fight Food Waste Centre Chief Executive Officer Steve Lapidge said the Transform program will improve the Australian food industry’s competitiveness, productivity and sustainability.

“Dr Paul Luckman will lead a national program to transform food waste into valuable products – we have 46 industry partners and 10 research partners from across the country, with a total of $121 million being invested over 10 years,” Dr Lapidge said.

“We are working to deliver new sources of revenue and market growth for food companies, with less waste ending up in landfill and more food donated to feed hungry Australians.”

Lead researcher Paul Luckman said 42 per cent of food produced in Australia is wasted – at an annual cost of $20 billion.

“The Transform program aims to identify and prioritise valuable products from waste streams and find the technology gaps and process limitations in transforming that waste,” Dr Luckman said.

“We’re already looking at a wide range of projects, from turning food waste into supplements to fuelling sustainable wastewater treatment with food waste.”

Dr Luckman said the program is expected to save 87 gigalitres of water via recovery and reuse, reduce food waste by 30 million tonnes and save 44 million tonnes of greenhouse gas.

According to Dr Luckman the program will also create 5200 jobs in rural areas and save $600 million in waste produce and waste-handling costs.

The Fight Food Waste centre has been allocated funding through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s CRC Program until 2028.

The program is hosted by The University of Queensland’s Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation.

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Climate change impact: MRA Consulting

MRA’s Mike Ritchie speaks to Waste Management Review about the waste sector’s contribution to national emissions and its role in meeting Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.  

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Woolworths working with start-up to tackle food waste

Woolworths is working with independent start-up Escavox, a business tasked with extending the shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables in retail outlets by tracking and monitoring produce from the farm to the supermarket, according to an Australian Financial Review report.

Escavox was started last year with a plan to track each pallet of fruit and vegetables and measure temperature, time and location.

John Dahlsen, former chairman of Woolworths has joined the start-up led by CEO Luke Wood.

Temperature controls and specialised packaging are common measures to prevent product losses in the supply chain.

According to Escavox’s website, production and supply chain data needs to be automatically collected and impartially managed if it is to be trusted and acted on.

It points out that siloed operators, inconsistent visibility in each leg of the chain, limited incentives to collaborate and multiple points of handover has led to no aggregated data and no person or party able to see or understand the complete supply chain.

This makes it difficult to assign product accountability and prevent liability from those who own the product even if that cause is not within their control.

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Australians throw away $8.9 billion in food annually

The Rabobank Food Waste Report shows Australians are wasting a collective $8.9 billion on food waste, a seven per cent reduction from $9.6 billion in 2017.

The report shows more than a third of all food produced globally is never consumed as it is either spoiled in transit or thrown out by consumers.

This results in one third of the world’s agricultural land being used to produce food that is subsequently not eaten.

Rabobank Australia Head of Client Experience Glenn Wealands said while the report shows changing attitudes towards food waste, the $890 waste bill per household illustrates more needs to be done.

“While is it pleasing that Australian consumers are wasting less food compared to 12 months ago, there is clearly much to do to raise awareness about food production and waste – while improving the finances of all Australians,” Mr Wealands said.

The report shows food delivery services are having a negative effect on food waste, with those who use food delivery services wasting 6.8 per cent more food than those who don’t.

According to Mr Wealands, the main culprit is food going off before it can be finished at 75 per cent, while 45 per cent of Australian’s are simply buying too much at the grocery store.

Mr Wealands said despite this, many Australians are actively embracing better habits at home including 50 per cent who use a shopping list when buying groceries, 38 per cent who eat leftovers, 36 per cent who plan meals in advance and 30 per cent who freeze food.

“As our population increases we will struggle to feed additional mouths. If we don’t curb our waste, we could run out by 2050,” Mr Wealands said.

While the reduction in food waste is a global responsibility, we all – as individual consumers – can play a significant role in sustaining this planet for generations to come.”

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National Food Waste Baseline report released

The Federal Government has announced the key findings of Australia’s National Food Waste Baseline report.

Last year, the Federal Government appointed a steering committee to support the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy, which has a goal to halve the nation’s food waste by 2030.

The Food Waste Steering Committee provided guidance and advice to Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) as it developed plan in 2018 that clearly sets out the actions to be taken to reduce Australia’s food waste over the short, medium and long term.

A National Food Waste Baseline was developed in order to measure and monitor progress towards the food waste reduction goal.

In a statement, Environment Minister Melissa Price said that findings from the National Food Waste Baseline report will be used to develop measurable baselines, food waste datasets and targeted strategies to meet the target.

The National Food Waste Baseline report shows Australia generated 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the food supply and consumption chain in 2016-17, the equivalent of 298 kilograms per person.

The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, shows that while Australia recycled 1.2 million tonnes of total food waste and recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses, it still disposed of 3.2 million tonnes over the period.

Consulting with industry organisations, the report found 2.5 million tonnes (34 per cent) of food waste was generated by households, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) by primary production and agricultural pursuits and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) by the manufacturing sector.

Sugarcane fibre (bagasse) was excluded from the baseline as the report identifies it as already well utilised, with mill-generated bagasse primarily combusted to generate on-site power.

Ms Price said targeted research and the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy by Food Innovation Australia will strengthen the rigour of the governments food waste datasets and its capacity to further reduce food waste.

Findings were released by the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre in Adelaide with a full report to be published on the Federal Government website in the coming weeks.

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