We’re pretty lucky here in New Zealand. While fruit and vegetables do seem to cost a lot, we have access to a good supply of relatively inexpensive and nutritious food. As a country though, we’re not so good at eating all of it.
Large amounts of food end up in our rubbish. New Zealanders throw away over 122,000 tonnes of food each year, which is enough to feed the everyone in Dunedin for two years!
This problem is not unique to New Zealand. Globally, one-third of all food produced is wasted. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes (that’s billion, with a b), mostly in western countries.
The amount of food that we throw away is not only staggering, it costs a lot. The food that ends up in the rubbish each year in NZ is worth around $872 million dollars, but that is not the only cost.
Food Waste and the Environment
The amount of food waste in our rubbish is a massive environmental issue. It’s a common misconception that because this food biodegrades, that there is no harm in throwing it out. While the first part of this is true, the natural decomposition of an apple core in your compost heap is quite different to what happens when food goes out with the rubbish.
When your mouldy bread, six-day old leftovers and slightly brown fruit gets picked up by a rubbish removal truck, it is probably heading for a landfill. In a landfill, food waste and other organic matter end up buried without enough access to oxygen. This lack of oxygen means that there are not enough microorganisms to break the waste down efficiently, so it takes much longer than it usually would. It’s not just the time that’s an issue though. Without enough oxygen, the breakdown of this food releases methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change.
If all of the world’s food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon emissions behind only China and the United States.
Deforestation and precious resources
Food waste also contributes to deforestation, which leads to loss of habitat for many animal species and compounds the greenhouse gas effect as there are fewer trees to soak up CO2. Because we waste so much food, there is growing pressure to produce more and more of it. 25 million acres of land are deforested each year to grow food. The craziest thing about all of that is that globally we are already producing enough food to feed everybody on the planet.
All of this food also uses a lot of fresh water to produce. 25% of all fresh water consumed each year is used to produce food that goes to waste. That’s without mentioning the huge costs of storing, refrigerating and transporting all of these items that will end up uneaten.
Saving your money and the planet
It’s not just the planet that’s hurting when you empty that smelly fruit bowl into the trash or clear out the fridge after a few too many months of putting it off. There is some serious money in all of that uneaten food! Reducing the amount you need to throw away, also reduces the amount you need to spend. According to Wellington City Council, the average New Zealand family throws away $563 worth of uneaten food per year.
That’s more than just pocket change, saving that could go a long way towards a family holiday at the end of the year!
Here’s a list of tips to minimise your waste, save your money and do your bit for the environment.
Tips for reducing the impact of food waste
- Plan your meals ahead of time, and buy only what you need.
- Learn about expiry dates. In New Zealand, you’ll usually see “best before” or “use by” dates. “Use by” dates are food safety labels, and generally you shouldn’t eat food with this labelling after the date. But “best before” labels are just the manufacturer’s guess about when the food will be at its best until. As long as it looks and smells okay, it should be fine to eat it.
- Freeze food before it expires. If you have meat or other perishable items that are expiring soon, but you don’t have time to use it, put it in the freezer! You can extend its life this way, and as long as you follow freeze time recommendations and defrost and use it within 24 hours, it will stay good to eat.
- Use your leftovers. That cottage pie for last night’s dinner makes for a great lunch the following day. Invest in some good storage containers, and you’ll be saving money by not wasting and on not buying lunch out!
- Keep your bread in the freezer. The number one food item that ends up in New Zealander’s rubbish is bread! Our humid climate usually means that bread gets mouldy faster than it goes stale, but you can prolong its life in the freezer.
- Store food in airtight containers or plastic wrap when in the fridge.
- Store onions, potatoes and kumara in a cool dark place, like the pantry or a storage bin.
Dealing with organic waste
Sometimes wasted food is inevitable, and not everyone has time to be perfect with their food purchasing and storage. If food does go bad, or you have organic matter to dispose of, why not make your own compost? Composting is a brilliant way to reduce your environmental impact and you can use it to help your garden grow!
If you have green waste to be removed, make sure that you choose a rubbish removal company that cares about the environment and is committed to disposing of it properly! When Junk2Go removes biodegradable green waste, it’s not heading for the general landfill. We do everything possible to ensure that it is disposed of in a way that allows it to break down naturally.
So give these tips a go and save yourself some money by reducing the food waste you produce. If you do end up with organic waste to dispose of, give the team at Junk2Go a call, we’ll happily do the right thing for the environment on your behalf!
Love food, hate waste has a lot of tips on reducing your waste, as well as recipes for left-over ingredients and information on storing food correctly.
We’ve got more tips for doing your bit for the environment and being a greenie.