SV research finds who throws out the most food in Victoria

Young Victorians and parents with children are key contributors to the state’s food waste dilemma, according to new research commissioned by Sustainability Victoria.

The research findings showed that Generation Z throw out $115 of food waste weekly, compared to Baby Boomers who reported just over a tenth of that at $17 per week.

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The research also found that almost half (46 per cent) of Victorians are not aware of how much money they are throwing in the bin in the form of food waste, with nine out of every 10 feeling guilt about how much food they waste.

Men were reported to waste close to twice as much as women, throwing away $54 in food waste compared to $29.

Parents with children under the age of 16 years old were also highly likely to throw out food, with more than one third believing it is their children who are responsible for the waste.

More than three quarters of respondents to the research showed a strong desire to save money on groceries, with the average Victorian household throwing away more than $2000 a year worth of food.

The research was conducted by QDOS research, which surveyed 1001 Australians over the age of 18 years old.

The findings are part of a new campaign which has launched called Love Food Hate Waste, Love a List – which encouraged Victorians to write better shopping lists and stick to them to reduce food waste and save money.

The Victorian Government has also announced an additional $1 million funding for the Love Food Hate Waste campaign to reduce food waste through to 2021.

The research findings found that only 43 per cent of Victorians shopped with a list, with 46 per cent admitting they buy food they don’t need.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said that preventing food from being wasted is the best way to address the costly problem.

“We know from previous research that households that use a shopping list reduce their food waste compared to those who don’t. Through the Love Food Hate Waste, Love a List campaign, we’re giving Victorians the tools they need to reduce their food waste,” said Mr Krpan.

Comedian Cal Wilson hosted a documentary to highlight the issue of food waste, which has significant environmental impacts. She said she was genuinely shocked at how much food is thrown out.

“There’s so much we can do to reduce food waste that doesn’t include overeating, or giving leftovers as presents. A really great first step is making a shopping list and sticking to it,” said Ms Wilson

Sustainability Victoria recommends threes ways to shop smarter, which are planning the week’s meals, writing a list and eating everything that has been bought.

Coles to halve food waste by 2020

Coles has announced it will halve food waste across its supermarkets by 2020, make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable and reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables.

The company has pledged to divert 90 per cent of all supermarket waste, including food, cardboard and plastic, from landfill by 2022 and donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by 2020 by redistributing surplus food.

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The supermarket giant is also planning to begin phasing out the use of single use plastic bags in its stores on 1 July.

Removing double plastic packaging for fruit, selling bunched vegetables like kale and silver beet without plastic and removing plastic packaging from Coles Brand bananas are among the initiatives planned to reduce plastic waste.

Replacing the packaging for meat and poultry products with recycled and renewable materials and replacing single use fresh produce bags with 30 per cent recycled content are also part of Coles commitments.

The company will also provide its customers with an option to recycle soft plastics at every Coles supermarket across Australia, which can be turned into outdoor furniture and road base.

Coles Managing Director John Durkan said Coles wanted to lead the way in its commitment to the environment.

“We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste,” he said.

“We are delighted to be the only Australian supermarket to sell own brand water bottles that are both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent made from recycled materials. Now we are the first major food retailer in Australia to announce a target to make all of our own brand packaging recyclable by 2020, ahead of the Federal Government’s target of 2025.”

The company also plans to connect every Coles store with Food rescue program SecondBite, meaning surplus edible food from supermarkets will be redistributed to people in need.

Mr Durkan said connecting an additional 130 supermarkets to SecondBite will also divert further waste from landfill.

“By 2020, we want to provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need. Since 2011, we’ve donated around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank so we’ve still got 28 million meals to go.”

Coles has also pledged that it will label all Coles Brand products with recycling information to assist consumers when it comes to disposing of their waste.

Australian student’s prawn shell plastic goes global

An Australian student’s bioplastic innovation has gone global and will be representing Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Angelina Arora started investigating bioplastics when she 15 after she was inspired by being asked to pay for a plastic bag at a shop. It prompted her to think of a way people could still have the convenience of plastic without the harmful environmental effects.

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She will represent Australia alongside over 1,800 high school students from 75 countries, regions, and territories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After she became a finalist in the 2017 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering awards for her research into the commercial viability of bioplastics, she began to work closely with a CSIRO mentor to develop a completely biodegradable plastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from silkworm silk.

“I’m driven by wanting to help – whether it’s people, the environment or animals. It was amazing after months of research that I found a plastic that was suitable,” Ms Arora said.

“I was always a curious child asking why things work and this developed into a love of science. I believe science is the key to all the worlds’ mysteries.

“I couldn’t imagine a future where it isn’t part of my life. I think I’d like to go into medicine as it is all about helping people,” she said.

CSIRO Education and Outreach Director Mary Mulcahy said showcasing Australia’s brilliant science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects on the world stage was a key part in enabling Australia to adapt for a rapidly changing future.

“The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can guide that future through innovation,” Ms Mulcahy said.

“These students are showing on a world stage that Australian students are prepared more than ever for the future.”

Pictured: Angelina Arora. Source: CSIRO

FIAL appoint new General Manager of Food Sustainability

Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) has appointed Genevieve Bateman as General Manager of Food Sustainability, a newly created position to support the implementation of Australia’s National Food Waste Strategy.

Managing Director of FIAL Dr Mirjana Prica said that Ms Bateman will bring tremendous experience and proven success at delivering significant government initiatives to the issues of food waste.

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“Ms Bateman will lead the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy and work with industry, business and government across the food supply chain to find collaborative solutions to the food waste problem which costs the Australian economy $20 billion per year,” Dr Prica said.

“Ms Bateman’s career spanning both the public service and private sector will be an asset to FIAL and her enthusiasm and passion will be instrumental in delivering this exciting initiative.”

One of the key roles of General Manager of Food Sustainability is to identify short, medium and long-term outcomes to deliver the strategy and reach FIAL’s 2030 target.

“FIAL is also delighted to announce a call for innovative projects that encourage collaboration between small and large businesses in the food and agribusiness sector, to lift productivity and competitiveness,” Dr Prica said.

“We will match funding of over $100,000 and up to $1 million to help industry and agribusiness solve an innovation challenge. Projects that involve and benefit multiple businesses across the sector will be viewed more favourably for funding.

Now that Ms Bateman has joined us, FIAL’s attention will turn to working hard on the four key areas of the National Food Waste Strategy: policy support, business improvements, market development and behaviour change,” she said.

The National Food Waste Strategy is part of the Australian Government’s election commitment to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030.

Dr Prica said she was delighted to see the recent increase in funding for food waste following the Australian Government’s announcement of $30 million in funding for the Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to tackle food waste insecurity.

“This decision builds on the $1.37 million already contributed by the Australian Government and states and territories towards eliminating food waste. I look forward to working with the new CRC,” Dr Prica said.

Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre launches

A new national research effort is aiming to reduce food waste in all stages of the product, from production to final disposal.

The $133 million Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre program is a partnership between 57 industry and research participants from Australia and internationally.

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Food waste costs Australia $20 billion a year, with significant amounts of it being sent to landfill.

To reduce food waste throughout the value chain, the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre aims to transform unavoidable waste into high value products and engage with the industry and consumers to deliver behavioural change.

Sustainability Victoria (SV) Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan said $150,000 from SV’s Love Food Hate Waste program will be used to fund research on consumer behaviours concerning food waste and reducing food waste in the supply chain.

“As Victoria is one of the nation’s major food producers and processors, this is a particularly important issue,” Mr Kpran said.

“The CRC ticks boxes in terms of how we can do more to efficiently produce and process food and deal with waste,

“The University of Melbourne’s 2016 Melbourne Foodprint report found Melbournians wasted more than 200kg of food per person every year. It‘s not just a waste of resources along the food production and processing chain; it’s a major producer of greenhouses gas emissions as the food decomposes,” he said.

Mr Krpan said the project would help primary producers, food processors, retailers, food rescue agencies and technology and service providers.

“It will also help local government to contain the cost of operating landfills and long-term, that’s good for everyone. It will also reinforce Sustainability Victoria’s work to reduce the production of waste or all types.”

“There are many opportunities to develop and use products derived from primary production that is otherwise wasted.

“We already have a composting industry which uses some food waste, and there is the potential to feed it into digesters which breaks it down, creates gas to drive electricity and reduces what goes to landfill,” Mr Kpran said.

Food waste compost combats NSW weeds

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) has been able to use compost as a weed suppressant to reduce African lovegrass and improve soil quality.

The Monaro lovegrass project was delivered by Australian Soil Management (ASM) with a $50,000 grant from the NSW EPA’s Organics Market development program.

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Compost made by Snowy Monaro Regional Council from kerbside food and garden waste was blended with supplements to address deficiencies in soil tests and compost analysis.

Two farms at Billilingra at Bredbo and Macfield at Cooma were selected for the project to develop a method for compost use to control lovegrass on the two major soil types in the Monaro region.

The company tested the soil and mapped each site before applying compost to fill soil nutrient gaps.

Both sites recorded an approximate 50 per cent reduction in lovegrass, along with more preferred species, improved pasture quality and more nutrition for cattle.

ASM estimates that within five years, because of the composts efficiency to improve pastures, there would be no need for winter feed of hay or fodder crops.

Results of the project have been shared with farmers at field days and workshops. The NSW EPA says that ten tonnes of compost was sold for immediate pick-up, and followed by a steady increase in the region’s compost sales to 250 tonnes.

National Food Waste Strategy in discussion

The National Food Waste Strategy brings to light a range of challenges for reducing the nation’s food waste, but where to from here?

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Federal Government launches National Food Waste Strategy

The Federal Government has launched its National Food Waste Strategy at the inaugural National Food Waste Summit in Melbourne.

The strategy provides a framework to support the government’s goal of halving Australia’s food waste by 2030.

The National Food Waste Strategy identifies four priority areas to help reach this target: including policy support, business improvements, market development and behaviour change.

The federal government has made an initial funding commitment of $1.37 million over 24 months towards this goal. The funding will be used to support an independent organisation (Food Innovation Australia Limited) that will develop an implementation plan. It will also be used to monitor and evaluate the strategy and coordinate priority areas of work.

The funding will go towards a voluntary commitment program that will initially engage businesses and industries to commit to actions that reduce food waste and a National Food Waste Baseline so that the government can monitor and track its progress.

Data collated for the report shows the cost of food waste to the Australian economy is $20 billion per year.

Of the food waste disposed in landfill in 2014-15, 7.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is estimated to be released over the life of its decay.

The Federal Government, with the states and territories, will enable Food Innovation Australia Limited, through $1 million over the next 24 months, to start implementing the strategy. A steering committee will provide advice and guidance to Food Innovation Australia Limited. Membership of the committee will be announced in the coming months and will align with the priority areas of the strategy.

By late 2018, Food Innovation Australia Limited will deliver the plan for the strategy that sets out short, medium and long-term actions. The industry voluntary commitment program will be in place by early 2019.

The Federal Government has also committed a further $370,000 through its National Environment Science Program for two research projects to support the strategy. Of this, $200,000 will support research to establish the National Food Waste Baseline and develop an approach for the measurement of progress against the 50 per cent reduction target. The remaining $170,000 will identify the highest value return on investment opportunities in food waste for business, community organisations and governments.

Ways to support a consistent national approach to community education on food waste will also be on the agenda of the upcoming Meeting of Environment Ministers in December.

Commenting on the announcement, the Victorian Government noted it is working with businesses to manage food waste across the supply chain and find new ways to use food and organic waste products.

A roundtable hosted by Minister D’Ambrosio earlier this year attracted major food producers and processing companies including Swisse, SPC Ardmona and Devondale Murray Goulburn.

The Victorian Government is also helping businesses develop new markets for high quality organic products and boost the uptake of recycled organic products in agriculture.

Read the federal government’s full strategy here.