Maize/corn drying in Heilongjiang province, northern China © Global Warming Images / WWF

Maize/corn drying in Heilongjiang province, northern China © Global Warming Images / WWF

Reducing food waste

It's a staggering figure, but about one-third of all food produced for human consumption around the world goes to waste. Australians are even more wasteful.

Just as we can strive to make our food production more friendly to the planet, we can also reduce the amount of food we throw out. That includes edible food that never reaches the shops, unsold or uneaten food in restaurants, or food we discard at home.

Globally, the impacts of food waste are astounding. It contributes greenhouse gas emissions, uses freshwater that we can ill afford to sacrifice, costs millions of farm animals their lives and accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of human labour, not to mention the vast forests cut down and wetlands drained to produce food that is never eaten, or the mountains of fertiliser and pesticides applied for no purpose.

While waste occurs throughout the food value chain in Australia, roughly two- thirds of food waste is generated in consumer-facing businesses (e.g. restaurants and retail outlets) or in the home. Most of us only have to look inside our fridge for proof.

But WWF is determined to reverse this trend. We aim to help businesses and consumers to avoid and reduce food waste – for example through education, waste tracking and better date labelling.

What we're doing

Why it matters 

Wasted food affects the environment but also our livelihoods and health. Environmentally, it accounts for about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, 24% of the freshwater and 28 million tonnes of the fertilisers and pesticides used in agriculture. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has estimated the full cost of global food waste, including environmental, economic and social impacts, at US$2.6 trillion dollars annually.

As well as reducing environmental damage, avoiding and minimising food waste will help us to feed the world's growing population and contribute to a sustainable future for agriculture in Australia. And it's something we can all contribute to, whether we’re dining out or eating at home.

Collection of freshly picked vegetables, South Africa © Martin Harvey / WWF

What you can do to help

There are a number of steps you can take to reduce food waste in the home:

1 Check the fridge before you shop and only buy what you need.

2 Plan your meals. It saves time, money and reduces food waste.

3 Check date labels and know the difference between:

  • ‘Use by’- food has to go.
  • ‘Best before’- food is at its best and can be eaten after this date as long as it has been stored correctly.
  • ‘Display until’- a stock control message for retailers.

4 Use leftovers and be creative with your next meal.

5 Ask for smaller portions or a ‘family bag’ when eating out.

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