Connecting the dots between food waste and climate change
2 August 2021 at 4:49 pm
“In Australia, we have the national climate resilience and adaptation strategy to set out how we manage the risks of climate change, but it doesn’t acknowledge food waste as a solution”
Tackling food waste is vital to reducing carbon emissions and should be at the forefront of Australia’s climate policies, advocates say.
It is estimated that 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia each year, costing the economy more than $20 billion annually.
Food waste is also a major environmental issue, with around eight per cent of global carbon emissions coming from wasted food, which rots in landfill and releases methane into the atmosphere.
Food rescue charity OzHarvest has recently teamed up with the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) to release a new report examining Australia’s progress on tackling food waste.
Australia has set a target to halve food waste by 2030, which is one of the UN’s sustainable development goals.
OzHarvest and MSDI hope the report will spark a national conversation on what needs to be done by policymakers, businesses and the public to achieve this target.
OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronni Kahn AO told Pro Bono News that Australia has made some good inroads in this area, such as creating a National Food Waste Strategy and National Food Waste Baseline to help track progress towards the reduction goal.
But the report noted it would be “misleading” to assess whether Australia was currently on track to halve food waste by 2030, given a lack of data so far.
Kahn said what was clear was that “fast paced” action was needed across the entire supply chain and all levels of society.
She said this required getting food waste reduction on the national agenda and including this in national climate policies.
“In Australia, we have the national climate resilience and adaptation strategy to set out how we manage the risks of climate change, but it doesn’t acknowledge food waste as a solution,” Kahn said.
“So we need a policy that’s up to date, using the latest data and food waste reduction initiatives to be at the forefront of this because it is a direct solution to reduce emissions.”
Business has a role to play in the fight against food waste
A new entity was created last year – Stop Food Waste Australia – to bring business and industry partners together to tackle food waste along the farm-to-fork supply chain.
The report calls on businesses to sign up to this entity’s Australian Food Pact, a voluntary agreement helping organisations identify opportunities to produce more sustainable products with less resources.
Kahn said by reducing food waste, businesses would improve their progress tackling climate change.
“Businesses have a huge role to play in this and can easily start by including food waste in their corporate greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies,” she said.
“If you’re reducing waste, you’re reducing emissions. And you could report on that.”
Kahn said charities and Australian society as a whole also had an important role to play.
She said OzHarvest wanted to inspire and empower others to join them in the fight against food waste to help achieve this goal.
“Other food rescue organisations and relief organisations can together help rescue surplus food from businesses,” she said.
“But any organisation that puts protecting the planet at the forefront of the mission can help connect the dots between food waste and climate change and get on board to inspire action.
“And out of all the [SDGs], this is the one that every single person could do something about.”
You can see the full report here.