Australian’s annual food waste bill hits $10.1bn

Rabobank has released its 2019 Food Waste Report showing that Australians spent a total of $10.1 billion in 2019 on food that ended up in our bins rather than in our stomachs, up from $8.9 billion in 2018.

The Rabobank Food Waste Report highlights that Aussies are now wasting an average of 13 per cent of their weekly grocery spend, equating to $1,026 each year.

With food waste on the rise across all states and all generations, Australia as a nation is losing the battle against food waste with significant negative impacts for not only our hip pockets but also our planet.

Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience, Rabobank Australia said, “Food waste is one of the most significant challenges facing our nation and planet today.  According to the Food Sustainability Index, developed by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Australia is the fourth highest food waster in the world. Given the increasing pressure on the planet to provide for a growing population there is an urgent need for greater action across governments, industry, retailers, and consumers to drive real change.”

The biggest offenders when it comes to food waste are consumers. Household waste makes up 34 per cent of food waste nationally, with 31 per cent from primary production and 25 per cent from manufacturing.

“As individuals, each and every one of us can and must make a difference. When we waste food, the ramifications go far beyond just dollars, impacting our planet and precious resources. We know from this research that more than three quarters of us care about reducing food waste and are annoyed by it. However, it is alarming that less than three out of 10 of us recognise the impact our food waste has on the environment,” Wealands added.

We need to raise awareness and change behaviour
Most Aussies don’t link the impact of their own household waste to bigger picture issues with 54 per cent believing it contributes to landfill, yet only four in ten linking it to pollution and one third recognising it increases Co2 emissions. Less than a third of Australians connect the impact of their waste with climate change, water shortages and animals becoming extinct.

Consistent with previous years, the top reasons for household waste include food not being prepared properly, not knowing what to do with left overs, buying too much and changing plans.

Consumers are also finding new ways to waste food with the rapid uptake of food delivery services linked to our increasing food waste habits.

Gen Z has work to do
Gen Z are the future custodians of this planet, they make up a quarter of the population and are the most socially aware generation. However today, they’re also the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste, according to the survey, binning $1,446 of the food they purchase every year, up $234 from 2018.

Baby Boomers remain the least wasteful of all Australians, throwing out only $498 of their food.

Generation Value of annual food waste Change from 2018
Gen Z $1,446 + $234
Gen Y $1,394 + $175
Gen X $918 + $79
Baby Boomers $498 + $17
Across the states
In 2019, there was an increase in food waste across all of the states. However, Queenslanders have been keeping the closest eye on their waste habits, indicating the smallest increase in food waste year on year. People living in capital cities waste 14 per cent of their weekly shop, compared to people in rural areas who only waste 11 per cent.
State % of food wasted annually Change from 2018
QLD 11.8% + 0.5%
WA 13.3% + 0.9%
NSW 12.8% + 1.2%
NT 10.4% + 1.9%
TAS 11.4% + 2.3%
SA 12.8% + 2.4%
VIC 13.9% + 2.6%

Mr Wealands added: “But there is hope! We have some fantastic organisations in Australia that are committed to fighting food waste, such as OzHarvest, Foodbank and Yume.“However, we can definitely learn from best practice in other countries, for example, governments in Italy and France banned supermarket food waste in 2016, legislating that unsold goods must be given to food banks or charities. Ultimately, there must be a highlighted sense of urgency now, given we’re wasting more than ever before.”

The 2019 Rabobank Food Waste Report is part of Rabobank’s annual Financial Health Barometer (FHB), surveying over 2,300 financial decision makers aged between 18 and 65, polling attitudes and behaviours towards saving, debt, farming, food production and food waste.