Council finds sticky solution to food waste

Food being thrown before it can be finished and before its ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates are the top reasons for food waste (Photo supplied)

Venu Menon
Wellington, May 3,2024

The Wellington City Council is cracking down on food waste.

The council has launched a campaign to drive home the financial and environmental impact of food waste. Among the practical solutions on offer are Eat Me First reusable stickers, which the council describes as “a visual prompt to remind people of food that needs to be eaten first.” The sticker is conceived as a simple and effective tool to reduce waste.

Says Wellington City Council’s  Deputy Mayor Laurie Foon: “Our Food Action Plan is part of Te Ayakura First to Zero framework and the Tupiki Ora strategy. Combined, we have a coordinated approach to addressing food resilience and sustainability. But, stopping food waste starts at home.”

The council plans to set up kerbside organic collection points.

“But that’s an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” Foon notes, adding, “We want food waste to be dramatically reduced before it even gets to that stage.”

“At its core, the Eat Me First reusable stickers seek to instil a culture of mindfulness and conscientiousness when it comes to food consumption and storage in Kiwi households,” says Juno Scott-Kelly of Love Food Hate Waste NZ, a council-supported initiative designed to tackle food waste in Aotearoa by turning “awareness into behaviour change.”

“Helping Kiwis to identify what food needs to be eaten first, our reusable Eat Me First stickers should be placed on a shelf in your fridge or pantry to highlight what items need to be eaten before they go mouldy or have to be thrown out,” Scott-Kelly explains.

Love Food Hate Waste NZ estimates that by “actively identifying and consuming items that are closest to expiration, have been left over from another meal or opened and left uneaten, individuals could save upwards of $1,510 a year.”

“With food price inflation hitting a rate that has not been seen in 30 years in the middle of 2023, we know Kiwi families are hurting the most when it comes to their grocery bills,” Scott-Kelly says.

The reusable stickers have been designed to help reduce the cost and waste from the food that people purchase.

The council-backed campaign highlights some startling food waste facts. For instance, the average Wellingtonian throws out 3.2kg of food per week, which adds up to 30,000 tonnes of food scraps going to landfill each year, “the same weight as 62 jumbo jets.”

According to the campaigners, Wellingtonians spend almost $600 a year per household on uneaten food that goes to landfill. More than $543 million worth of fruit, vegetables and meat, as well as $62 million worth of bread, from Kiwi households go to landfill every year.

Food waste accounts for roughly 409,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in New Zealand annually, campaigners say.

When food ends up in landfill, it decomposes without oxygen, and, as a result, it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, the Love Food Hate Waste campaign points out. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon emissions “behind China and the United States,” it adds.

Campaigners note the “more food we waste, the more food we need to produce.” This constant need to produce more puts additional pressure on the environment.

For example, 25 million acres of land are deforested each year in order to grow food.  “This is happening despite the fact that we are actually producing enough food to feed the world,” campaigners say, adding that food is wasted at all stages of the supply chain – “from the farm to the fork.”

In developing countries, most of these losses occur in the early stages such as production and transportation, while in developed countries, most food wastage occurs by consumers after purchase.

Campaigners say 25% of all fresh water consumed each year is used to produce food that goes to waste, while 300 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce food that goes to waste.

Researchers found that the average Kiwi family throws away “three shopping trolleys of edible food each year.”

Love Food Hate Waste aims to reduce the amount of food that New Zealand households are throwing away.

Campaigners point to measures taken around the world to reduce food waste. For instance, in France it is now illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food. Instead, they must donate it to charities and groups, who then supply it to the needy.

The United States has announced a goal to reduce its food waste by 50% by 2030, while in South Korea food disposal is charged and the collected food is then turned into animal feed, fertilizer or burned to generate electricity.

Love Food Hate Waste, a campaign which began in the United Kingdom in 2007 to tackle food waste, also runs in Canada and Australia.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

 

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