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.