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Kathy TV: Government Policies on Food Waste

The last few weeks we have been discussing the enormous impacts food waste has on the environment, wasting resources such as water, land and transportation, as well as it’s impact on our pocketbooks and health.  Today we shift our gaze to what the Australian Government is doing to address this concern. Estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion a year, this number is big enough to peak the interest of even the most non-environmentally conscious of politicians. 

In terms of food waste, the Australian Government is responsible to:

  1. Provide national guidance and plans for reducing food waste;

  2. Support and encourage States, Territory and local governments to continue work on food waste programs and policies; and,

  3. Conduct national waste reporting. This consolidates key national waste and recycling information, including data on food waste, from the States and Territories.

In regards to the above responsibilities, Australia has developed the Australian National Food Waste Strategy. This strategy provides a framework to support collective action towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030. The goal of halving food waste by 2030 is in response to the United Nations Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Sustainable Development Goal 12  from the UN calls to – “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”    

Whilst there is still no legislation around food waste in Australia, we have introduced a number of activities which encourage the reduction of food waste.  These include consumer education, investment in waste treatment infrastructure, waste diversion from the retail and commercial sector, food collection for redistribution and research into high value uses for food waste. Have you noticed we tag #lovefoodhatewaste? Many Australian states have introduced programmes such as these, as one example of consumer facing initiatives.

Achieving the goal of halving Australia’s food waste will require an integrated approach. Governments, the private and not-for-profit sectors, and the community will all need to work together. 

So how do we compare to the rest of the world? It is always interesting to consider our country’s performance compared to those of other nations.

The Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation undertook a study of the food waste in 34 counties and devised the Food Sustainability Index.  You can have a further look at the study findings here.  According to the report, “this index examines how well countries advocate for and enact food waste policies, how well resources are used, and how health indicators perform throughout a population”.

Here is a summary of some interesting facts from the study:

  1. France has emerged as a model of food sustainability. In 2015, they became the first country to ban edible food waste from supermarkets, forcing stores to instead donate food to charities.  When it comes to consumption, France has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world.

  2. In Denmark, it is legal to sell date-expired food so long as it is clearly labelled and shows no sign of health risk.  In 2012, it launched a new law forcing the private sector to recycle their organic waste if they produce more than 120 tons of it per year.

  3. In just 4 years, South Korea’s capital city decreased food waste by 10% or 300 tons per day! How did they do it? They started by making people pay up.  In 2016, Seoul implemented a regulation requiring citizens to pay the recycling fee for their food waste – a fee based on the amount of waste. There are special bins around the city that are set up to weigh and record food waste. Citizens simply dump in their waste and receive their bill. The waste is then converted to animal feed or energy.  

Studies and measures, like the Food Sustainability Index, are an important tool to help government bodies design effective policies to improve our food systems.

As mentioned above, the effective management of food waste requires an integrated approach from governments, the private and not-for-profit sectors and the community.  For such management to be effective, it is foreseeable we will need to move towards more structured governance in Australia around:

  1. Agricultural efficiency;

  2. Effective and sustainable use of packaging;

  3. Partnerships between food and grocery retailers and charitable organisations;

  4. Household education, and community initiatives;

  5. Diversion of food waste from the commercial sector;

  6. Investment in alternative treatment technology and infrastructure;

  7. Incentives for alternatives to landfill disposal;

  8. Creating value from food waste; or,

  9. Standardisation of data for the measurement of food waste and tracking of waste reduction.

Are you aware of the governance around food waste where you live?  What policies have been implemented?  Feel free to share what resources you have had made available to you as well as campaigns and/or policies that you are aware of that involve the minimisation of food waste.  We would love to hear about what’s happening around the world!


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