Skip to content

Fighting Food Waste: What is the problem, and how do we solve it?

What throwing our food away is really costing us, and why it doesn’t need to be this way.

It’s no secret that a lot of food goes to waste. However, sometimes it’s hard to truly understand how much is thrown out. Let’s break it down.

How much food do we waste and why?

Currently, we throw away around one-third (that is, 33%) of all the food we produce globally. According to the United Nations, that’s approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food. Every. Single. Year.

In Australia, according to the Australian Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, we throw away around 7.6 million tonnes of food each year – a huge number for a country with a population of only 25 million. To put that into perspective, that’s about 312kg per person per year. An average grocery trip for an Aussie would see them throwing out one in five bags! And what’s worse? 70% of the food we discard is predicted to be perfectly edible.

So why is this food thrown away? We’re probably most familiar with food waste once we purchase it or once it’s on our plates. This is called post-consumer waste, and it accounts for roughly one-third of food wastage. Whether we didn’t finish our dinner or the food is past its due date, there is a lot of waste 'post-consumer'. However, the majority of food waste actually occurs before it even gets to consumers. Supermarkets often reject produce – sometimes it doesn’t meet the aesthetic requirements consumers expect, or it’s just not what the supermarkets are looking for, and so is destined for landfill. Retailers also, like consumers, throw food away from their shelves when it hits or even gets close to the best-before date.  

So why is food waste such a problem?

  • Hunger and Food Insecurity: Globally, millions of people suffer from hunger and lack access to nutritious food. Food waste exacerbates this issue by squandering valuable resources that could have been used to feed those in need. By reducing food waste, we can redirect surplus food to people who are food insecure, thus addressing hunger more effectively.

  • Environmental Impact: Food production requires vast amounts of resources such as water, energy, and land. When food goes to waste, all these resources are also wasted. Additionally, decomposing food in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. By reducing food waste, we can conserve resources and reduce the environmental impact associated with food production.

  • Economic Loss: Food waste represents a significant economic loss at various levels. For farmers and producers, wasted food means lost revenue and investment in resources that went into growing, harvesting, and processing the food. Food waste also affects consumers who spend money on food that ultimately goes to waste. By reducing food waste, we can save money and improve overall economic efficiency.

  • Ethical Concerns: Food waste raises ethical concerns as it signifies a disconnect between the abundance of wasted food and the reality of people going hungry. It is a moral imperative to ensure that food is utilised efficiently and that resources are not wasted when there are people in need.

Tackling food waste, head on

Supermarkets, retailers and hospitality businesses are responsible for feeding people every day, and so food waste is an unavoidable part of their operations. Some of the practices and policies common to these businesses can exacerbate the problem though. Here are some ways in which these policies contribute to food waste:

  • Overstocking and Over-ordering: Grocers and hospitality businesses often overstock their inventory to ensure they meet customer demands. However, this can lead to perishable items not being sold before their expiration dates, resulting in food waste. Similarly, overordering ingredients and menu items can lead to excess food that goes unused and ends up being discarded.

  • Strict Cosmetic Standards: Supermarkets and grocers have strict cosmetic standards for produce, leading to the rejection of fruits and vegetables that do not meet specific aesthetic criteria. This results in perfectly edible food being discarded solely based on appearance. Similarly, hospitality businesses may prioritise visually appealing dishes and discard ingredients that are not visually perfect but still safe to consume.

  • Inadequate Storage and Handling: Improper storage and handling practices can accelerate food spoilage and waste. Inadequate refrigeration, improper temperature control, and mishandling food items can lead to faster deterioration and contamination, making them unfit for sale or consumption.

  • Portion Sizes and Buffet Systems: Hospitality businesses often serve large portion sizes or operate buffet systems that encourage excessive consumption and generate leftover food. Uneaten food from customers' plates or excess buffet items are frequently discarded, contributing to food waste.

  • Food Safety Regulations and Date Labelling: Strict food safety regulations and ambiguous date labelling practices can result in the premature disposal of safe and edible food. The "best before" and "use by" dates can lead to misunderstandings, with businesses discarding food that is still perfectly fine to consume.

So, that’s a lot of waste and a big problem… how do we fix it?

There are lots of ways businesses that work with food and consumers can minimise waste. 

  • Adopting accurate demand forecasting and inventory management systems to minimise overstocking and over-ordering.

  • Educating staff on proper food handling and storage techniques to prevent spoilage and contamination.

  • Implementing initiatives to rescue and donate surplus food to local food banks or charitable organisations.

  • Relaxing cosmetic standards for produce to reduce the rejection of visually imperfect but edible items.

  • Offering flexible portion sizes and menu options to minimise customer plate waste.

  • Improving date labelling practices and educating consumers about the meaning of different date labels.

  • Implementing composting or food waste recycling programs to divert food waste from landfills (this is where we come in!)

Addressing food waste is crucial for creating a more sustainable and equitable food system. By raising awareness, implementing better storage and distribution practices, improving food labelling, and promoting responsible consumer behaviour, we can reduce food waste and reshape the food system to be more efficient and ethical, together.  

Bardee's mission to reshape the global food system

We want to reshape the global food system, for the better. Bardee have built a world-class vertical farming system for black soldier flies to not only consume the food waste, but turn it into something that helps other things grow, like fertiliser or tasty pet food. By turning it into something else, we create a circular economy that benefits people, animals and plants, as well as the environment. At Bardee, our solution is pet food, animal feed and fertiliser, but we know of lots of other amazing companies who are turning waste into resource - check out Great Wrap for example!

Are these Black Soldier Flies magic?

Well, to us they’re pretty special but it’s not magic, it’s biology and the circle of life. Just like what Mufasa said, except our gazelles don’t gallop, they soar.

  • Black soldier flies are brought to food waste which has been processed into a perfect feed for these insects to grow fast and healthy.

  • As the larvae grow, 3000x in size in just 7 days, they transform 100% of the organic matter-  using no additional water!

  • As the larvae consume the food waste and grow, they create ‘frass’ which is a polite term for manure, or the more horticulturally appropriate turn of phrase ‘castings’, which is an all-natural, nutrient-rich fertiliser

  • The biomass from the mature larvae is separated from the frass and is either sold live, dehydrated, or processed into a meal to create protein for animal feed

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options