Australia forks out $10.3b annually for food that ends up in the bin

Rabobank has today released its annual Food and Farming Report revealing that in 2021, the average Australian household reported wasting just over 11 per cent of the food they bought – essentially throwing $1,038 per year in the bin.

Nationally, the total sum of our food waste tops a whopping $10.3 billion, enough to feed 1.1 million households (or roughly every household in Brisbane) for an entire year.

Overall, the report found that our household spending on food increased year on year by around $20 per week in 2021, meaning the average grocery bill is now $178 every week.

The results also show that the more you spend, the more you waste, with Aussies who spent over $300 each week on food, wasting almost 17 per cent of their grocery shop.

“Last year’s report found that COVID-19 changed not only the way we work and socialise, but also how we buy and consume food,” said Rabobank Australia head of sustainable business development, Crawford Taylor.

“Over the past 12 months, our food waste habits took a turn for the worse, and as many of us start to emerge from lengthy lockdowns, the results show these bad habits remain. While the numbers are significant, the report is based on what people think they waste, and as we never like to think the worst of ourselves, the truth is likely to be even more confronting.

“In Australia, 7.6 million tonnes of food1 is wasted across the supply chain every year, and around half of that is wasted by consumers. However, individuals do have the power to take action and have a positive impact on the amount of food thrown out across the country, while also saving themselves hundreds of dollars and reducing the substantial impact food waste is having on the environment and carbon emissions.”

Ditching the bad habits In 2021, we’ve been slightly less likely to adopt good food usage habits than in previous years – that is, taking small steps such as eating or making new meals with leftovers, freezing food, or planning meals.

Yet, the findings show that picking up some of these small habits could have a massive impact on the amount of food we waste – and the money we’re throwing out.

For example, if you always use your leftovers to make lunches for the week, you can save $364 annually, always using a shopping list when you buy your groceries can save binning $141, and if you always consider portion size when preparing a meal you can save up to $412 annually.

The convenience trap Over the past 18 months, online shopping has experienced a meteoric rise thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, with Gen Z and Millennials the biggest adopters of online grocery shopping.

The survey results revealed that those who spend more online are also significantly more likely to waste food. Younger generations are also more likely than older generations to spend more on meal delivery services – with almost 2 in 5 ordering at least once a week.

While ordering food delivered to your doorstep or getting takeaway from a local restaurant might be quick, easy, and convenient, consumers who always get meals delivered instead of cooking at home waste more food on average – around 20%.

“The Rabobank report findings highlight a real need for greater awareness and education around food waste– as well as the wider impacts that food waste has on our climate and environment – particularly with younger Australians,” said Morten Belling, Menulog managing director.

“While this is a national challenge, we all have a part to play in helping to tackle this issue. At Menulog, we’re currently working with our restaurant partners, customers and non-profit partners such as OzHarvest to best understand what the challenges are for them and how we can support them to make improvements and reduce wasting food.”

From farm to fork The good news is that, according to the report, nearly all of us (96 per cent) have some concerns regarding food waste, up 4 per cent from last year, with impact on landfill, climate change, and pollution our biggest worries.

And 79 per cent of us – more people than ever – perceive food production as highly important.

“There are some current pressures on farmers including a shortage of labour, but Australia is one of the most food secure nations in the world, producing enough to feed 75 million people,” said Taylor.

“Understanding where our food comes from, how it is grown, and who is producing it is an important step in the journey to reducing our food waste.

“When we value food, we’re more willing to pay a fair price that more accurately represents the time, effort, and materials that go into its production. In turn, this means that farmers can afford to invest in better and more sustainable production practices.”

Globally, food waste produces 8 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Foods that end up in landfill decompose, releasing carbon dioxide and methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“Yet on average, we’re still binning 11% of the food we buy, with the main reasons for wastage including food losing its freshness, going off or people simply forgetting about it in the cupboard or fridge,” said Taylor.

“This is perhaps why it’s so surprising for a generation known for their concern for the environment, that Gen Z is the most likely to waste food while at the same time, being the generation most likely to believe that food waste impacts climate change and pollution.”

Small steps can drive significant results As vaccination rates rise and lockdowns start to lift, we’re emerging into a new era and new way of life.

“Growing up with six kids, I thought we were so ripped off and was embarrassed when mum tried to find ways to use up food. Now I believe finding creative ways to give food an extra life is the best,” said chef and TV host, Courtney Roulston.

“It’s heart-breaking to think that we buy produce, only to take it home, and then 3-4 days later, it goes bad, and we chuck it in the bin. There’s so many factors involved in getting that produce to your house – so much hard work by our farmers, so much water and all of the trucks and shipping involved in getting your food from farm to fork!”

Courtney’s tips on reducing your food waste at home are:

• Learn how to properly store your groceries once you get home. When people bring their shopping home, one of the first things they often do is trim their veggies down so that they fit in their fridge better, but a lot of those things are actually edible – i.e. radish and carrot tops, beetroot stalks.

• The stalks of beetroots are delicious, you can cook the stems down in some garlic and chilli, and serve as a warm salad with lemon zest and feta crumbled over the top.  Herbs are best stored with just a piece of paper towel in the bottom of a container in the fridge because the enemy of herbs is moisture – once they start getting moist, they begin to go black.

• Many of us dump all the fruit into one fruit bowl, but some fruits don’t like being near each other. Try to store fruit like for like and keep different types of fruit separate (In particular, bananas as they ripen other fruit! Keep them separate in a pantry or somewhere dark and cool).

• If your bananas are overripe, something I love to do in summer is to peel them, chop them, put them in a Ziplock bag and freeze them. It makes for a nice, healthy banana sorbet.

• I also always tend to overbuy apples and never eat them, and they go a bit soft. I stew them or make a crumble. Even in summer, I tend to just cook the apples with some honey and cinnamon, and it’s great on your morning breakfast. Once you’ve poached fruit, it will last for another week in the fridge, while fruit in a bowl only has another 1-2 days in it.

• I was surprised the results found that bread was one of the most commonly wasted items. I think a lot of people tend to forget that bread freezes really well.

• If you do have bread that’s going stale, you can also make your own homemade breadcrumbs or an old favourite – bread and butter pudding!

For more insights on the highs and lows of Australia’s fight against food waste, including the latest research data, tips and recipes, visit:


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