When organic waste is sent to rot in landfill it creates methane, which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Research conducted by The Australia Institute reveals Australians dump $5.2 billion worth of food every year – enough to meet the shortfall in the UN emergency relief fund. Fruit and vegetables make up the bulk of the wasted food, accounting for $1.1 billion, followed by unfinished restaurant and takeaway food and $872.5 million worth of fresh meat and fish. Recent studies estimate that 45% of the average Australian household’s waste is comprised of food.
It is possible to reduce the amount in your own home using some of the tips below.
Six ways to reduce food waste at home
1. Plan meals in advance and avoid excess purchasing by always using a list when shopping.
2. Maintain your fridge temperature at 5°C or lower. Avoid overcrowding your fridge - it can affect its ability to cool, and warm food will not last as long.
3. Be aware of the difference between “best by” and “use by” dates. “Best by” is only a suggestion. It doesn’t necessarily mean food will spoil once it passes that date.
4. Invest in a compost bin and/or a worm farm for your food scraps. If you have limited space or live in an apartment, a Bokashi bin (a small benchtop composting
system) helps reduce kitchen waste by fermenting food scraps into a nutrient-rich soil conditioner.
5. Rentachook provides chickens and coops Australia-wide and offers a “try before you buy” scheme.
6. Some local councils offer food recycling services to residents in multi-unit dwellings. If there is none in your area, contact your local council and ask them to consider setting up such a scheme.
Four ways to avoid excess packaging
1. Change the way you buy Consider buying things you eat a lot of in bulk. Shop at a local farmers’ market or food co-op where you can provide your own containers. Not all organic and farmers markets charge exorbitant prices. A bit of peer research can reveal a lot. Find out which markets your friends shop at and if the produce is fresh and the prices reasonable.
2. Think before you buy Could you find the same product with less packaging?
3. Learn what can be recycled Spot recyclable packaging at a glance. Check with your local council to find out what is accepted in your area.
4. Complain Contact the retailer or manufacturer if you believe the packaging used at a store is excessive.
Worm-farms & composts
Preplanning meals and shopping to a list can help limit the amount of food wasted created by a household kitchen. However, for some families – especially those with younger children - it can be hard to plan exactly what the children will want and need at any one time. Being creative about using leftovers can stem some of the flow through to the garbage. Composts are a great way to dispose of unwanted family food but can’t always keep up with the waste created by a growing family. If this is the case, add a worm farm, which can be used to manage up to 100% of household food waste, so it all goes back into the garden.
Not sure how to go about setting up your own organic waste system? Some city councils, like City of Sydney, offer free advice sessions for local residents. Some even include free bins. Visit your local council’s website or give them a call to find out more about what they currently have on offer.
Provided you have a suitable yard, chickens can be a great investment. They can eat food scraps, provide eggs and fertiliser for your backyard. Make sure you research thoroughly before buying as they are a commitment and are not suited to every living situation.
Organic waste & apartment living
Living in an inner-city apartment can make dealing with organic waste more of a challenge. Before resigning yourself to adding your waste to landfill, find out if your apartment has a communal compost bin that’s currently in action. If not, talk to your building secretary about raising the need for a bin at the next strata meeting. Also, find out if your building is making full use of all the eco services provided by your local government.
Are there any community gardens in your local area and within walking distance of your home? Most would welcome your waste with open arms.