Two University of Southern Queensland (USQ) academics, Professor Alice Woodhead and Associate Professor Bernadette McCabe, will be sharing their insights into improving food security at the 2016 Crawford Fund conference.
Being held next week in Canberra, the conference is entitled Waste Not, Want Not: The Circular Economy to Food Security.
The conference is the premier annual event of The Crawford Fund, a not-for-profit organisation which works to raise awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries from international agricultural research.
Professor Woodhead’s talk is entitled the Last Mile Challenge, and will look at how the rapid growth of mega cities and Asia’s middle class has driven change in retail outlets and consumer purchasing.
As leader of the Agricultural Value Chains research program at USQ’s Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development, and as a member of the Australian-ASEAN Council, Professor Woodhead will be talking about the scope of the mega-city food waste problem and food distribution.
“In the past, most of Asia’s food wastage occurred post-harvest and during distribution to wet markets. The growth of supermarkets, limited cold storage distribution and more packaged food at supermarkets is increasing waste within mega cities,” Professor Woodhead said.
“Waste created once food leaves distribution centres tends to end up in open landfills on the edge of cities. The challenge we face in managing this problem is immense, but can be tackled on a number of fronts.”
For her talk, Associate Professor Bernadette McCabe (pictured) will draw on her experience as Australian National Team Leader for the International Energy Agency’s Bioenergy Task 37: Energy from Biogas and leader of Energy Conservation Management research at USQ’s National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture.
Entitled Waste-to-Energy Innovations Powering a Circular Economy, Associate Professor McCabe’s address will scope the potential of waste-to-energy generators like anaerobic digesters to counter energy poverty and improve livelihoods.
“I will be highlighting some key innovations across the globe, with a focus on novel approaches being used in developing countries and how they can minimise the impact of food loss and waste,” she said.
“When combined with food security, waste-to-energy technologies provide a powerful case for city and rural communities alike.”
It’s just a matter of time before many different foods have “intelligent packaging,” a term used to describe package features that communicate information such as shelf life, freshness and quality, according to a presentation at a July 18 symposium at IFT16: Where Science Feeds Innovation, hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).
“We need consumer-friendly sensors for products that say, “Hey, this food is fresh and safe to eat, or it isn’t,” says Claire Sand, an adjunct professor of packaging at Michigan State University and owner of Packaging Technology & Research. “We’re very close to being able to do for a multitude of foods.”
Intelligent packaging is already used on some medicines and food products, but it will become more widespread in the next few years due to the interest in reducing food waste, she says.
Time-temperature indicators have been around for a while and are widely used, especially on seafood packages to ensure the products are safe, she says. They take into account time and temperature which are tied to deterioration. For instance, fish or chicken left out on the counter will spoil faster than if it’s kept in the refrigerator or freezer, she says.
New degradation sensors work even better than time-temperature indicators because they actually measure products’ decay, Sand says. These sensors can be integrated into the packaging to detect spoilage and help reduce food waste. For instance, an entire package film may change color when certain chemical reactions, such as food decay, occur, Sand says.
Degradation sensors or time temperature indicators may also be small tags that change color when the product is no longer edible. In some cases, the bar codes fade so the food can’t be purchased, she says.
About 30 percent of food in the United States is wasted between production and consumption, Sand says. “Giving consumers clear direction on what food is still good and what food is past its shelf life will reduce food waste, which is a huge problem in the United States and other countries.”
As the price of food increases, consumers increasingly need a way to assess the quality of the food they buy, she says.
Enactus students from Edith Cowan University have won the Graham Kraehe Community Project – Brambles Food Waste Challenge for their program, Waste Not.
The winning program, which also saw the team crowned Enactus National Champions, provides initiatives including an environmental impact report on food waste to local businesses in the city of Joondalup, Western Australia.
It educates businesses in Joondalup about food waste and includes social, economic and environmental factors to encourage improvements in agricultural production, the provision of food service and through community awareness. The students devised, developed, delivered and documented their project.
Enactus Board Member and CHEP Asia Pacific President, Phillip Austin awarded the team a $5,000 prize to support development of their project. In addition, as overall winner of the national championship, the project received an additional $5,000 prize from Brambles.
“CHEP is proud to have partnered with organisations to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain and are delighted to support this worthwhile project that addresses an area where a big impact can be made – through community and local business awareness and engagement,” Austin said.
“We are proud to see our donation used to make a difference in reducing food waste and educating the local community on sustainable solutions.
“The ‘Waste Not’ team have shown strong business acumen and entrepreneurial skills in development of this community-wide project and I look forward to seeing this project progress.”
The ‘Waste Not’ program provides assistance in environmental analysis and education initiatives for local businesses to reduce food waste through, amongst other initiatives, donating leftover food to charities and redirecting food into purpose-built compost bins that fertilises a community vegetable garden.
Enactus is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.
The Enactus program includes 20 universities working on real-life issues with guidance and mentoring from corporate business partners in Australia, to achieve real results.
Founding Director and Enactus CEO, Judy Howard said, “The ‘Waste Not’ team have demonstrated leadership, teamwork, and have further enhanced their communication skills through project management, problem solving and networking skills.
“The program has shown a strong plan for self-sufficiency and the ability to be successfully implemented into the community.”
The Enactus National Conference and Championships provides an opportunity for Enactus teams to present the outcomes of their projects to a team of judges drawn from the business community around Australia. The 2016 National Conference and Competition was held from 5-7 July at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney.
The team of 24 from Edith Cowan University will go on to compete at the Enactus World Cup from 28-30 September 2017 in Toronto, Canada.
No one wants to serve spoiled food to their families. Conversely, consumers don’t want to throw food away unnecessarily – but we certainly do. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates Americans toss out the equivalent of US$162 billion in food every year, at the retail and consumer levels. Plenty of that food is discarded while still safe to eat.
Part of these losses are due to consumers being confused about the “use-by” and “best before” dates on food packaging. Most U.S. consumers report checking the date before purchasing or consuming a product, even though we don’t seem to have a very good sense of what the dates are telling us. “Sell by,” “best if used by,” “use by” – they all mean different things. Contrary to popular impression, the current system of food product dating isn’t really designed to help us figure out when something from the fridge has passed the line from edible to inedible.
For now, food companies are not required to use a uniform system to determine which type of date to list on their food product, how to determine the date to list or even if they need to list a date on their product at all. The Food Date Labeling Act of 2016, now before Congress, aims to improve the situation by clearly distinguishing between foods that may be past their peak but still ok to eat and foods that are unsafe to consume.
Aside from the labeling issues, how are these dates even generated? Food producers, particularly small-scale companies just entering the food business, often have a difficult time knowing what dates to put on their items. But manufacturers have a few ways – both art and science – to figure out how long their foods will be safe to eat.
Out of a mistaken concern for food safety, 91 percent of consumers occasionally throw food away based on the “sell by” date – which isn’t really about product safety at all. “Sell by” dates are actually meant to let stores know how to rotate their stock.
A survey conducted by the Food Marketing Institute in 2011 found that among their actions to keep food safe, 37 percent of consumers reported discarding food “every time” it’s past the “use by” date – even though the date only denotes “peak quality” as determined by the manufacturer.
Here’s how producers come up with those dates in the first place.
Figuring out when food’s gone foul
A lot of factors determine the usable life of a food product, both in terms of safety and quality. What generally helps foods last longer? Lower moisture content, higher acidity, higher sugar or salt content. Producers can also heat-treat or irradiate foods, use other processing methods or add preservatives such as benzoates to help products maintain their safety and freshness longer.
But no matter the ingredients, additives or treatments, no food lasts forever. Companies need to determine the safe shelf life of a product.
Larger food companies may conduct microbial challenge studies on food products. Researchers add a pathogenic (one that could make people sick) microorganism that’s a concern for that specific product. For example, they could add Listeria moncytogenes to refrigerated packaged deli meats. This bacterium causes listeriosis, a serious infection of particular concern for pregnant women, older adults and young children.
The researchers then store the contaminated food in conditions it’s likely to experience in transportation, in storage, at the store, and in consumers’ homes. They’re thinking about temperature, rough handling and so on.
Every harmful microorganism has a different infective dose, or amount of that organism that would make people sick. After various lengths of storage time, the researchers test the product to determine at what point the level of microorganisms present would likely be too high for safety.
Based on the shelf life determined in a challenge study, the company can then label the product with a “use by” date that would ensure people would consume the product long before it’s no longer safe. Companies usually set the date at least several days earlier than product testing indicated the product will no longer be safe. But there’s no standard for the length of this “safety margin”, it’s set at the manufacturer’s discretion.
Another option for food companies is to use mathematical modeling tools that have been developed based on the results of numerous earlier challenge studies. The company can enter information such as the specific type of product, moisture content and acidity level, and expected storage temperatures into a “calculator.” Out comes an estimate of the length of time the product should still be safe under those conditions.
Companies may also perform what’s called a static test. They store their product for an extended period of time under typical conditions the product may face in transport, in storage, at the store, and in consumer homes. This time they don’t add any additional microorganisms.
They just sample the product periodically to check it for safety and quality, including physical, chemical, microbiological, and sensory (taste and smell) changes. When the company has established the longest possible time the product could be stored for safety and quality, they will label the product with a date that is quite a bit earlier to be sure it’s consumed long before it is no longer safe or of the best quality.
Companies may also store the product in special storage chambers which control the temperature, oxygen concentration, and other factors to speed up its deterioration so the estimated shelf life can be determined more quickly (called accelerated testing). Based on the conditions used for testing, the company would then calculate the actual shelf life based on formulas using the estimated shelf life from the rapid testing.
Smaller companies may list a date on their product based on the length of shelf life they have estimated their competitors are using, or they may use reference materials or ask food safety experts for advice on the date to list on their product.
Even the best dates are only guidelines
Consumers themselves hold a big part of food safety in their own hands. They need to handle food safely after they purchase it, including storing foods under sanitary conditions and at the proper temperature. For instance, don’t allow food that should be refrigerated to be above 40℉ for more than two hours.
If a product has a use-by date on the package, consumers should follow that date to determine when to use or freeze it. If it has a “sell-by” or no date on the package, consumers should follow storage time recommendations for foods kept in the refrigerator or freezer and cupboard.
And use your common sense. If something has visible mold, off odors, the can is bulging or other similar signs, this spoilage could indicate the presence of dangerous microorganisms. In such cases, use the “If in doubt, throw it out” rule. Even something that looks and smells normal can potentially be unsafe to eat, no matter what the label says.
The NSW EPA has opened Round 4 of the Organics Infrastructure (large and small) grants program for applications. Grants between $25,000 and $5 million are available to build or supply the infrastructure needed to divert food and organic garden waste from landfill.
The program is being delivered in partnership with the Environmental Trust, as part of the $465.7 million Waste Less Recycle More program. Applications are invited from local councils, industry, business and not-for-profit organisations.
EPA Chair and CEO, Barry Buffier said the aim of the program is to increase infrastructure and equipment to increase recycling capacity for food and garden waste in NSW or improve opportunities to redistribute good food to people in need.
“This program is part of a comprehensive strategy underway in NSW to get food and garden waste out of landfill,” said Buffier.
“It includes education through Love Food Hate Waste, new green-lid kerbside collection services and this funding for infrastructure to redistribute good food to people need or recycle avoidable food waste into compost.
“Now in this fourth and final round, I encourage organisations who have not yet applied for an infrastructure grant and who have projects that can be substantially completed by June next year to put in an application.”
Applications are invited across three streams:
Stream 1 – Food and Garden Organics Processing
For major equipment and infrastructure at processing facilities to process more food and/or garden waste collected from households and businesses.
Stream 2 – Business Organics Recycling
For equipment, like composting systems and commercial worm farms, to process food and/or garden waste onsite at large businesses or institutions like prisons, hospitals, universities and aged care.
Stream 3 – Food Donation
To fund infrastructure, like vans, fridges and freezers, to enable food relief agencies to collect and redistribute more surplus food from businesses to people in need.
Environmental Trust Senior Grants Manager, Peter Dixon said applications are open for Round 4 until Wednesday 13 July 2016.
“The Trust has a long history in working with Local Government, industry, non-government organisations and community groups in tackling waste, recycling and sustainability issues,” he said.
“This program, focussed on organics recovery, is helping to build the capacity in NSW to do something better with food and garden waste than dumping it in landfill.”
It’s easy to forget the power of what is on our dinner plate.
Between the Instagram post, or the quick fix meal, the snack at our desk or the breakfast on the run – it’s not a surprise we might overlook the incredible potential in our food. What and how we eat, and the systems that produce it.
Our food is more than simply a source of calories – or even a labour of love. As our global community faces some serious and time-bound health challenges, what’s being served is a world of opportunities.
Let me share with you just six reasons why.
In 2015, the global community through the United Nations, unveiled the Sustainable Development Goals. A road-map for equitable development and planet-wide prosperity by 2030, it’s an ambitious, holistic and truly global blueprint for prioritisation and action on a wide range of issues.
Outlined in 17 Goals and 169 Targets, Goal 2 focuses specifically on food: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. But as momentum builds for the realisation of these Goals, governments and civil society are increasingly realising the importance of food and food systems in achieving ambitions far beyond Goal 2. In fact it is suggested that between 12 and 15 of the 17 Goals will only be fully achieved through investment and action on food and food systems.
Ending poverty requires adequate nutrition for those poorest, while 500 million people on this planet continue to earn a living from smallholder farming. Water and sanitation are deeply linked to food production methods and farming systems. Resilient, inclusive cities will not only require healthy urban food systems, but are also a platform for achieving them. The list goes on.
In short, many now argue that Sustainable Development will only be possible through a focus on ending malnutrition – reshaping our food and diets, and the systems and environments that produce and influence them.
We all seem to be blindly focused on economic growth as the sole measure for communal success. We talk about knowledge economies and knowledge-intensive sectors. Something we almost always overlook though, is that education attainment and economic productivity are both linked to adequate, good food.
Poor nutrition is associated with reduced cognitive function in individuals, delayed school enrolment, impaired concentration, increased illness and absenteeism and early school drop-out – one reports suggests that malnutrition can result in up to 20% lower earning capacity by adulthood. Compared to healthy children, worldwide, children who go without adequate food for long periods are 19% less likely to be able to read, and 12% less likely to write simple sentences by the age of eight, decreasing an individual’s ability to take advantage of development resources and poverty alleviation opportunities.
Conversely, the education of girls improves gender equity, empowerment and maternal and child health outcomes – including better nutrition in the following generation.
In short, knowledge economies require knowledge diets – and healthy food systems. If we want economic growth and sustained social and economic development, then we need to invest in the systems and environments that support nutrition.
While food offers a world of solutions, it also presents some serious challenges for global health. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, food is a leading risk factor for deaths and disability worldwide.
In fact in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide, 18 years and older, were overweight, while more than 600 million were obese. 462 million were underweight. In the same year, 41 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese but 159 million were affected by stunting, resulting from chronic undernutrition. While 50 million children were wasted. In low- and middle-income countries, almost five million children continue to die of undernutrition-related causes every year yet simultaneously these same populations now witness a rise in childhood overweight and obesity – increasing at a rate 30% faster than in richer nations.
The food system, what we eat and very importantly the environment in which we eat it – including the pervasive advertising and commodified urban food systems – have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of our global populations.
When it comes to food, it is not just about what we grow and do eat – it’s also about what we grow and don’t eat. An estimated one in three mouthfuls of food is wasted in this world every day. The same world where just under half a billion people continue to be underweight. In poorer nations, this waste generally occurs pre-market and can be part-solved by simple technologies in transport, packaging and refrigeration. In wealthier countries, the majority of waste occurs after market and in our homes. This is where buying less but more frequently, avoiding impulse buys and taking measures to reduce the “buy one get one free” that incentivise over-purchasing, is all key.
Finally, we cannot talk about the power of food and not mention climate change. Today, the food systems of the world account for up to 31% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than all sea, air and land transport combined. The way we grow, process, transport, market, consume and waste food is a major concern for our planet’s health. And therefore our health too.
Reaching far beyond methane from cows, it’s also about run-off from chemical fertilisers that cause damage to water bodies, a reliance of fossil fuel-intensive methods, deforestation and replacement with monoculture agriculture, salinification of soils resulting for poor farming practices and overfishing of our oceans – the links are numerous. These are all linked to the climate and have an enormous impact on the local and global ecology.
Combined with the fact that we waste one-third of what we grow and very often live in food environments conducive to over-consumption, there is a great deal of room for small individual changes to have drastic, positive, collective effects.
We’re all in this
Finally, food is a really big deal because most of us love it – and all of us need it. Regardless of our political persuasions, our demographics, or our personal beliefs, food is something we all share. More than this, food is something that we all have ownership in and engage with at least three times every day.
The sad news is that it is a major driver of harm and disease, but the good news is that it is also an unparalleled opportunity for collective action. Small changes across 7.4 billion dinner plates will add up very quickly.
In a world where the problems can sometimes seem out of reach, and beyond comprehension, food is also our connection back to the very real issues we all face together.
Our food offers each of us an important seat at the solutions dining table. Let’s be sure to recognise the power in what we’re being served.
A partnership of leading international organizations is launching the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit in Copenhagen.
The FLW Standard is the first-ever set of global definitions and reporting requirements for companies, countries and others to consistently and credibly measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.
The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is a multi-stakeholder partnership convened by World Resources Institute and initiated at the 3GF 2013 Summit. FLW Protocol partners include: The Consumer Goods Forum, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), EU-funded FUSIONS project, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) and World Resources Institute.
International momentum to curb food loss and waste is growing with governments and businesses making commitments to address this issue. However, most do not know how much food is lost or wasted or where it occurs within their borders, operations or supply chains. Moreover, the definition of food loss and waste varies widely and without a consistent accounting and reporting framework it has been difficult to compare data and develop effective strategies.
Creating inventories in conformance with the FLW Standard is a critical foundation to develop effective strategies for reducing food loss and waste and monitor progress over time. Moreover, it can help governments and companies meet international commitments, including the Paris Agreement on climate change and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, SDG Target 12.3 calls for a 50 percent global reduction in food waste by 2030, along with reductions in food loss.
“This standard is a real breakthrough. For the first time, armed with the standard, countries and companies will be able to quantify how much food is lost and wasted, where it occurs, and report on it in a highly credible and consistent manner,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute.
Australians are serial wasters. For every 1,000 square metres (or about four tennis courts), Australians litter about 49 pieces of rubbish. The biggest culprits are drink containers, making up five of the top nine recorded pieces of litter by volume.
One way to reduce this litter is to refund people when they deposit drink containers for recycling through container deposit recycling (CDR) schemes.
South Australia and the Northern Territory have CDR schemes. In May this year, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced a CDR scheme for his state, to begin in July 2017.
Under the scheme most drink containers over 150ml will be eligible for a 10c refund through state-wide depots and reverse vending machines. This has re-ignited an ongoing debate, largely driven by the drinks industry, which – as previously debated on The Conversation – vociferously opposes these schemes.
As part of the NSW process, we at BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University recently reviewed research and data from 47 examples of CDR schemes or trials around the world. This work was commissioned by, but independent of, the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
Some CDR schemes donate the refund to charity, but people are more likely to return a container for a refund. And the greater the refund, the greater the return rates. Most schemes refund 5-10c; the 11 schemes in Canadian provinces include those with refund rates as high as 40c for glass containers over 1 litre in Saskatchewan.
The question of whether the cost is worth the return is an important aspect of the debate, and one that should be considered not just by the beverage industry but by all stakeholders, including the wider community.
Can industry do the job?
The second argument against government CDR schemes is that industry can recycle containers itself. Examples to support this argument are sparse and unconvincing.
In 2010, Coca-Cola launched a reverse vending machine scheme in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, with a target of 3 million beverage containers recycled per month. The scheme folded in October 2014, having achieved roughly a quarter of this target.
PepsiCo’s ongoing Dream Machine initiative of college-based reverse vending machines commenced in April 2010 with the goal of increasing the US beverage container recycling rate from 34% to 50% by 2018. It reported collection of over 93 million containers by 2012. Although an impressive-sounding yield, achieving the target of a 50% recycling rate would require multiplying this effort 400-fold.
These examples illustrate that industry-based CDR schemes appear either unsustainable or lack realistic targets.
Thirdly, it is argued that CDR schemes will cannibalise existing kerbside recycling programs. The evidence suggests that the effect, if any, is the reverse – marginal increases in kerbside recycling have been noted following introduction of CDR legislation.
This may be linked to the “spillover effect” where people are more likely to do one thing if they are already doing something similar. The data from CDR schemes suggest that people may be more inclined to use kerbside recycling simply by buying a drink with a container deposit, not just getting the refund. As an example, South Australia’s overall recycling rate in 2008–2009 was 67%, against a national average of 51%.
Behavioural research also tells us that convenience is a major factor in CDR schemes, particularly how close collections are to people’s homes. Vending machines are perceived as convenient but data on whether they work are mixed.
There is also robust evidence that clean environments are likely to remain cleaner (than otherwise would be the case) and that littered environments are likely to attract more litter.
This underlines the findings from research that CDR schemes not only increase beverage container recycling, but reduce litter. Ongoing CDR debate should be informed by research evidence and involve all stakeholders in this multifaceted issue.
A new report from our Foodprint Melbourne Project has estimated the amount of food that is wasted in feeding Melbourne. We found that feeding Melbourne generates more than 900,000 tonnes of edible food waste every year, or over 200 kg per person.
This is enough to feed more than 2 million people for a year*.
Growing this wasted food uses 180 gigalitres of water each year, or 113 litres per person per day. This is equivalent to running your shower for an extra 10 minutes a day.
This wasted food also uses around 3.6 million hectares of land – around 41 ha per person, or more than 20 times the area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
And this wasted food is responsible for around 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 60% of which is generated by food waste rotting in landfill, and the rest in producing the wasted food.
This uneaten food is not only a source of unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. It represents a waste of natural resources that are in increasingly limited supply.
There are many ways to reduce food waste at home. These include making meal plans, sharing leftover food with friends or neighbours, checking the fridge before going shopping and storing food correctly.
The Cloud-Freezer app can help you to keep track of what’s in your freezer and fridge. Worm farms, bokashi bins and other forms of composting are also great ways to divert food waste from landfill.
While we can all take steps to reduce food waste at home, we need to look at the bigger picture. Our research shows that more than 60% of food waste is generated before food reaches your fridge or freezer.
Strict standards defining the shape, size and colour of fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets can mean that a significant proportion of a crop never leaves the farm.
Low prices for second-grade produce can make it financially unviable for farmers to pick, pack and ship imperfect produce. Pressure to keep supermarket shelves full for appearance’s sake, losses during food processing and storage problems also lead to food being wasted.
Initiatives that aim to make more imperfect fruit and vegetables available, such as Woolworth’s Odd Bunch campaign, go some way to reducing this problem, but more needs to be done.
Our research estimates that if food waste was halved across the food supply chain, Melbourne could save 1.8 million hectares of land, 90 million litres of water and avoid 1.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.
We need to halve food waste
In recognition of the significant challenge that food waste represents to sustainable food systems, the new Sustainable Development Goals set a target to halve the global food waste per person that is generated by retailers and consumers by 2030.
The UK government has been an early mover in taking action to tackle food waste. In 2007, it launched the WRAP Love Food Hate Waste program aimed at reducing food waste. An evaluation in 2012 showed that avoidable waste of food and drink (that could have been eaten) had fallen by 21% in five years following the launch of the program.
Most of this reduction has been in household food waste. The WRAP program is now working with the food industry to reduce waste in other sectors. The successful UK Love Food Hate Waste program aimed at reducing household food waste has been taken up by state governments in Victoria and New South Wales.
A US brewer has come up with a six pack ring that is not only biodegradable but can also be eaten by fish.
Discover Magazine reports that Florida’s Saltwater Brewery made the product from a combination of two of the ingredients it uses to brew its beer, wheat and barley. The resulting six pack holders are are fully digestible.
It is hoped the innovation can lead to progress in solving the problem of sea life being killed by consuming six pack rings, plastic bags and other waste that can look like jelly fish when in the ocean.
Saltwater Brewery teamed up with a local advertising agency to make the biodegradable six pack rings. It plans to make about 400,000 of them a month.
According to Discover, while most six pack rings currently being made are photo-degradable, they can take 90 days to break down in sunlight and some of the plastic found in them never fully breaks down.
EPA Chair and CEO, Barry Buffier said $470, 000 is available for local councils, NGOs, and community groups to raise awareness of food waste in NSW households and businesses.
“Each year in NSW, 800,000 tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill from households and 170,000 tonnes from business, which is why these grants that help to reduce food waste are so important,” Mr Buffier said.
“Now in this fourth and final round I encourage any councils who have not yet applied and who have projects that can be completed by June 30 next year to put in an application.”
Buffier said the Love Food Hate Waste education program, is part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce organics waste across NSW.
“The Government has been working steadily to meet the ambitious target to divert 75 percent of all waste from landfill by 2021,” he said.
“When NSW households waste, on average, over $1,000 a year on food which is thrown away, food waste avoidance initiatives can make a big difference in the amount of household waste being recovered and recycled in NSW rather than dumped.”
Environmental Trust Senior Manager Grants, Peter Dixon, said applications for this round of funding close at 5pm on Tuesday 14 June 2016.
“The Trust has a long history in working with Local Government, non-government organisations and community groups in tackling waste, recycling and sustainability issues.
“This program is a great continuation of that, with the EPA and Trust working together to fund projects to educate and inform NSW households and businesses on ways to reduce food waste.”
The Love Food Hate Waste grants are delivered by the NSW Environment Protection Authority and the NSW Environmental Trust in partnership as part of Waste Less, Recycle More, a five year initiative that is transforming waste management and recycling in NSW.
Ferrero Australia’s factory in Lithgow is the first food company in the world to use an Australian-based technology that enables microorganisms to turn liquid sugar waste into safe water.
The factory’s wastewater treatment facility was fitted with nine BioGill bioreactors to ensure it met the requirements for proper disposal of liquid trade waste. As the factory produces a high sugar waste content, when it gets cleaned using water, it produces a liquid that is high in biological oxygen demand (BOD).
According to the ABC, Geoff Cross, Ferrero Australia’s country quality manager, said, “If we don’t break down material with a high BOD, that oxygen is not available for the normal flora and fauna of a river system.” He added that the location of the factory eventually flows into the Cox’s River, which can present major problems in the water such as blue green algae outbreaks.
BioGill commercialised a technology originally developed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) that was used to grow antibiotics and penicillin for the medical industry.
John West, BioGill founder and CEO said that the company also made the technology useful to other fields including dairies, wineries and breweries to clean sewage.
West told the ABC that the organisation got its name from the water going over, not within, a membrane akin to gills on a fish.
“Waste water is pumped to the top of the BioGill chamber, it runs down on the gills containing microbes – the same that live inside our body. They flourish on the membranes and eat the waste out of the water,” he said.
Ferrero had to fix solar panels to the facility to ensure the microorganisms could work well through Lithgow’s cooler weather.
Wastewater from the Ferrero factory then goes to Lithgow’s town water treatment plant and after treatment, proceeds to local waterways.
Cross said that other food companies were interested in the Lithgow project and how it functioned.
“We’ve had quite a few discussions on what we’ve actually done here from the NSW Government’s Office of Environment and Heritage Sustainability Advantage Program,” he said.
Commonwealth research and development tax incentives have been given to BioGill and the company is considering a trial of the invention on the Great Barrier Reef in conjunction with James Cook University and the CSIRO.
At a time when one billion people globally experience hunger, as much as 50% of all food produced – up to two billion metric tonnes – is thrown away every year. In Australia alone, as much as 44 million tonnes of food is wasted annually.
Last year, French supermarket chain Intermarché launched a highly successful campaign encouraging consumers to purchase “ugly” food. This year, France became the first country in the world to implement laws cracking down on food waste, with new legislation banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Under this new legislation, supermarkets are required to donate any unsold food to charities or for animal feed.
While there is no law in Australia requiring supermarkets to donate any unsold food, both Coles and Woolworths have aligned with food rescue organisations to donate unsold or “surplus” food.
This surplus food is distributed amongst those experiencing poverty and food insecurity and is done voluntarily by the supermarkets under the banner of corporate social responsibility.
But our research into the issue of corporate social responsibility and wastage of fresh fruit and vegetables has identified a number of tensions and contradictions, despite leading Australian supermarkets’ zero food waste targets.
First, the strict “quality” standards required by the Coles and Woolworths duopoly means that a large volume of food does not reach the supermarket shelves. This is produce that does not meet size, shape and appearance specifications – such as bananas that are too small, or apples that are too red. If producers do not agree to meet these standards, they will lose access to approximately 70-80% of the fresh food market in Australia.
Second, the two major food retailers do not take ownership of produce until it passes inspection at the distribution centres. It is here where suppliers, such as farmers and growers, are “invited” – under the supermarket’s corporate social responsibility initiatives – to donate rejected food to rescue organisations at their own cost, or otherwise pay for further transportation or dump fees.
Thirdly, in an effort to reduce the high levels of food wasted at the farm gate, Australian supermarkets have followed France’s lead by marketing “ugly” food, (or what Intermarché termed “Inglorious Food”) – food that does not meet strict cosmetic standards, but is still perfectly edible.
While a step in the right direction, this “apartheid” between beautiful and ugly food was criticised in this study for reinforcing values that perfection comes at premium and ugly food, which is often the way nature intended, should be price discounted. Growers are also concerned about the lower prices that “ugly food” attracts, and the flow-on effects to them in reduced profits.
A final tension regarding food waste is “who is to blame”? Supermarkets attribute their high quality standards to consumer demands – however, consumers can only buy what is available at the supermarket. Supermarkets have also been criticised for marketing tactics that encourage household food waste, such as “buy one, get one free” campaigns.
Despite the lack of transparency regarding food waste in the supply chain, supermarkets – with their powerful market position at the end of the supply chain – are in a good position to transfer the problem of waste elsewhere.
They do this by setting cosmetic standards in the procurement of food which results in high level of wastage, not taking ownership of produce that does not meet their own interpretation of the standard, claiming corporate social responsibility kudos for donating to food rescue organisations (while at the same time saving on dumping fees) and differentiating between “beautiful” and “ugly” foods – reinforcing difficult-to-attain standards of perfection.
Although donating to food rescue organisations may be positive for people in need, it does not address the structural problems of the supply chain. This raises the question of state-led regulation, as with the case in France, to restrict food wastage at the retailer level. However, more is needed. Food waste is one symptom of excessive market power, something that needs to be addressed to steer mass food retail in a more sustainable direction in Australia.
Carol Richards is Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology.
Bree Devin is a lecturer in Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology.
Carol Richards receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the Norwegian Research Council.
Bree Devin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, a coalition of 30 leaders -Champions 12.3 -launched a new effort to reduce food loss and waste globally.
The leadership group aims to accelerate progress toward meeting Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seeks to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.
Reducing food loss and waste can be highly beneficial: it can save money for farmers, companies and households; wasting less can feed more people; and reductions can alleviate pressure on climate, water and land resources.
The Champions include CEOs of major companies, government ministers, and executives of research and intergovernmental institutions, foundations, farmer organizations, and civil society groups.
These leaders will work to create political, business and social momentum to reduce food loss and waste around the world.
Inspired by the “No More Food to Waste” conference in The Hague in June of 2015, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands formally called for the coalition’s formation in September 2015, and is providing secretariat support for Champions 12.3, along with World Resources Institute.
According to Vice-Minister for Agriculture in the Netherlands, Hans Hoogeveen, worldwide food loss impedes food security and fuels climate change.
"Food that is ultimately lost or wasted consumes about a quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland area the size of China, and is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emission," Mr Hoogeveen said.
"Through their leadership the Champions 12.3 will be able to connect these challenges, by forming smart alliances, bringing together leaders from private sector, local communities, farmers, science and government."
An innovative method of extracting protein from whey has the potential to turn a waste product of cheese making into a valuable by-product which can help make baby formula, baked goods or feed for fish farms or piggeries.
The process won the Innovation in Health Sciences prize at Curtin University’s Innovation Commercialisation awards recently.
It involves using biopolymers (polymers made by living organisms) to cause the protein to precipitate, or sink, to the bottom of the whey and be collected.
“The pH and the amount of biopolymer is critical. You can add those and nothing will happen because you want to optimise the conditions,” Curtin University food engineer Dr Tuna Dincer says.
"If you don’t get the pH right of the addition, nothing will happen.
Disposing of whey—which is 94 per cent water—can be a headache for some cheese makers, with a kilo of cheese resulting in up to nine kilos of whey as a by-product.
World-wide, 62 billion litres of whey are produced each year, while in Australia cheese makers discard 280 million litres of whey every year.
The Curtin research team’s one-step extraction process has been designed for small to medium-size cheese producers.
Large cheese makers often have equipment to process the whey, but in many cases, smaller cheese makers pay to truck whey to farms where it is spread into the soil under supervision.
Trucking whey from factory to farm can cost cheese makers three to four cents a litre.
"We targeted small/boutique to medium manufacturers who do not have the money to invest in equipment," Dr Dincer says.
"We wanted to design something so simple it does not require extra equipment.”
The Curtin research team includes Dr Tuna Dincer, Dr Corinne Vallet and Professor Vijay Jayasena (now with the University of Sydney), with the work funded by Dairy Innovation Australia.
The team, which is involved with Curtin’s Zero Waste Food group, is seeking further research funding and ultimately commercialisation.
“We have done proof of concept at the lab scale, with a maximum of five litres,” Dr Dincer says.
“At the moment we are applying for research funding to do pilot scale trials and we need to do feeding trials as well.”
Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP), has released the Slim Jim Step-On refuse containers in Australia. The newest addition to RCP’s hands-free waste management portfolio, the Slim Jim Step-On is designed to satisfy the diverse needs of any facility, maximising space efficiency with a 20 per cent smaller footprint* and a slim profile ensuring a perfect fit in even the tightest spaces.
“The Slim Jim Step-On container is designed with a slimmer profile and fills a gap in the market for smarter, safer, aesthetic refuse containers. Foodservice, healthcare and commercial environments demand hands-free waste management solutions that enhance any environment,” said Kristine Sickels, Senior Vice President of Marketing, RCP.
“Slim Jim Step-On container’s slim profile and intuitive design helps to reduce the effort and space needed to manage refuse, ultimately improving productivity.”
Enhancing worker satisfaction and wellbeing, the hands-free Slim Jim Step-On container features a built-in lid dampener that ensures a quiet and controlled lid closer that minimises noise. The lid’s hinge is located inside the container, which prevents wall damage compared to traditional receptacles.
The Slim Jim Step-On container is available in five sizes and in front-step or end-step styles to meet a variety of space requirements and applications. Premium colour and finish options enhance the aesthetics of any environment.
James and Monica Meldrum, founders of Whole Kids Australia have teamed up with global recycling company TerraCycle to developed Australia’s first national recycling system for kid’s food packaging.
Wholekids is stocked in major supermarkets and is aiming to up cycle wrappers of children snack foods including organic juice, popcorn and fruit bites.
Established in 2005, Whole Kids has grown to become one of the largest ranges of certified organic children snack food companies. The program will encourage kids to up-cycle their food pouches and snack wrappers with the free recycling program.
“The Kids Pouch and Snack Brigade is an ideal solution to packaging waste that can’t be disposed of through general household recycling collections. This means that packaging pouches and wrappers from Whole Kids products can be recycled and upcycled into useful items,” Monica Meldrum said.
The recycling programs target is to help the wider community, once collecting over a kilogram of waste product, consumers receive two cents that then can be donate to a local playgroup, school or charity of your choice.
With similar programs run by TerraCycle in Europe and America, Whole kids are confident that this recycling program will be a huge success in Australia.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the support from households, schools and playgroups for this exciting new initiative, and encouraging and educating future generations about the importance of recycling,” Monica Meldrum concluded.
“We kept over four billion pieces of waster from landfills around the world”, Anna Minns, TerraCycle Australia General Manager said.
More than 13,000 meals were served as part of OzHarvest's ‘Think.Eat.Save’ food waste awareness day in July. The Australian food charity's campaign aims to highlight and raise public awareness of how much food is thrown away each year.
OzHarvest is one of the charities supported by Olympus Australia and staff from the company's offices around Australia volunteered to help at this year's event which was simultaneously held in eight cities and two regional centres across the country. OzHarvest uses donated and surplus food from retailers and restaurants, and invites the public to enjoy a free and delicious hot meal made from the rescued produce while learning about food waste from some of the nation’s top chefs, politicians and celebrities.
“Olympus Australia has made a commitment to OzHarvest which allows us to direct resources to them so that our impact is more significant,” said Oliver Clarke, Communications Manager for Olympus Australia. “Our view is that we are partnered with them for the long term which makes the most effective use of the company and staff's support for activities in the wider community.”
‘Think.Eat.Save’ was launched in July with tri-partisan support at Parliament House in Canberra and the free meals were provided at venues in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Port Macquarie and the Sapphire Coast. High profile volunteers, such as chefs Neil Perry and Jost Bakker, assisted at functions to take a stance against food waste. Olympus staff helped serve the soup and desserts to lunchtime visitors in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The Olympus volunteers also helped set up the serving tents and clean up at the end of the day.
Founder and CEO of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn said "Think.Eat.Save 2015 continues to highlight the disturbing amount of food wasted in Australia and around the world. Of the more than one billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption, approximately one third is wasted."
“Our modern day challenge is to create a sustainable food culture that can be shared by all, where we waste less at all levels of food production and distribution,” Kahn said.
A 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreement to reduce food waste by 10 per cent across the region is picking up pace as researchers and technical team members work towards their 2017 goal of developing effective strategies and actions to address urgent global food waste issues.
A third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That translates into about 1.3 billion ton per year. Lincoln University Associate Professor James Morton says reducing food waste is the logical first step in meeting the needs of a growing world population, which is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050. He recently attended the second of three APEC ‘Multi-Year Project’ meetings focused on addressing global food waste, where he spoke around the need to measure and reduce wastage in the livestock chain.
“Reducing waste and getting the best use out of what we produce makes far more sense than trying to increase food production by about 60 percent from what it was in 2005, which is what it would take to feed that many people. Producing more food through agriculture has consequences for the environment. At the moment we are taking more out than we’re putting back in. It’s not sustainable and we’re losing arable land.”
Issues around food loss and waste are complex and variable. Developing countries are most affected by food loss during production and food shortages, with 795 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished. Developed countries are faced with massive food waste at retail and the point of consumption while dealing with an obesity epidemic, which affects about 600 million adults.
Associate Professor Morton says finding solutions for food loss and waste is difficult when countries have different economies, production methods and natural resources. “There are no simple solutions, but there are things we can do such as minimising loss in the production process, reducing recalls, improving the cool chain and funding research into making the most use of co-products.”
A good example of where New Zealand has reduced losses in production by growing food to more accurate specifications is in the meat industry. Retailers catering for consumers who want less fat in their food are willing to pay more for lean meat. Farmers now grow lean animals which results in less waste of unwanted fat trimmings.
Meat consumption has increased significantly in recent years. “Urbanisation, a growing middle class and higher income are behind the growing demand for meat worldwide,” says Associate Professor Morton. “Livestock products offer high quality protein so meat is a very important food source.
“Most countries grow livestock to feed their own population. New Zealand and Australia are unique in that most of what is produced is exported. Because of that, waste is not such a concern here in New Zealand, but that waste is happening elsewhere instead – retailers carrying a wide variety of foods to respond to consumer demand and having to discard safe food by ‘best before’ dates to maintain quality standards and consumers with food left on plates and leftovers forgotten in the fridge, all lead to high levels of waste.”
Associate Professor Morton believes that livestock products are economically and nutritionally valuable, but that the high environmental cost of their production means reducing losses is essential. “New Zealand relies on its `clean green’ image so it makes economic sense to reduce the environmental impact of food production here.”
While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation supports better and increased use of co-products, it also wants to see more food items remaining in the food chain. He says that livestock co-products are often low value nutritionally but there may be opportunities to develop meat and plant protein combinations for export, if it was economically viable.
Food security is not a concern in Australia or New Zealand at present, but the topic is crucial elsewhere and is a stated priority in most other countries. APEC leaders see reducing food waste as a primary related task for ensuring confidence in food supply.
The ‘Multi-Year Project’ aims to identify key issues and make policy recommendations around possible solutions and action plans which will ultimately be provided to all APEC member economies. APEC says increasing access to food while protecting natural resources and the environment will require intense public-private co-operation such as that envisioned by the project.