Scholars learn about Australian efforts to reduce food waste
Posted: 2 November 2023
Globally, 800 million people are currently undernourished, yet more than a billion tonnes of food each year is wasted rather than being consumed. International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, which has been observed on 29 September each year since 2020, aims to draw attention to this problem and possible solutions.
To mark this United Nations-sanctioned awareness day, a group of Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia scholars attended a presentation and discussion led by Dr Steven Lapidge, the creator and CEO of Fight Food Waste Ltd, which incorporates the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and Stop Food Waste Australia. The event was organised by Australia Awards.
Dr Lapidge’s presentation was titled ‘Australia’s strategy to halve food loss & waste by 2030’. After outlining the sobering facts about food waste and some overwhelming statistics—for example, food waste costs the global economy USD2.6 trillion each year—he also presented the scholars with positive results, such as Foodbank, which assists businesses to donate food that would otherwise be wasted. This food is then redistributed through charities to people in need.
Although combined household food waste in Australia totals nearly 2.5 million tonnes per year, the scale of the country’s commercial food waste far outweighs that of any individual consumer. Moving the conversation from the problem to emerging solutions, Dr Lapidge discussed the significant strides the Fight Food Waste CRC has made during the eight years of the program, not only through waste prevention and food redistribution, but also through research and development resulting in the use of commercial food waste to make new products, from processed food to nutraceuticals to horse feed.
The event also offered opportunities for the scholars to ask Dr Lapidge questions. Nepali scholar Maheshwar Ghimire wanted to know what the hospitality industry (especially restaurants) in Australia could do about food waste, considering that standard serving sizes often generate wastage. Dr Lapidge responded that the hospitality sector required an action plan, identifying the hotspots and understanding why the waste was present. He mentioned that similar programs in the UK had resulted in strategies that allowed diners to choose the size of their food portions. In restaurants where this option was available, food waste had successfully been significantly reduced. Dr Lapidge added that learning from other programs worldwide helps Australia create effective strategies.
Maldivian scholar Shaziya Ali expressed interest in the campaigning process of such initiatives. In response, Dr Lapidge discussed the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in Europe and explained that it had directly resulted in a 30% reduction in food waste. He also mentioned that although Australia did not yet have a standardised system, the Fight Food Waste CRC initiative was working towards making one available soon. ‘They are very impressive impacts, and it definitely gives a good starting point to get inspired and motivated to run behavioural change campaigns,’ Shaziya says.
This Australia Awards event was an eye-opener about the scale of food waste and the associated costs, both socially and economically, but the attending scholars were motivated by the possibilities for change. Australia Awards is committed to providing such opportunities for scholars to have positive, educational and engaging experiences in Australia, building valuable networks and skills to enhance their Scholarship experience.
Cover image credits- FAO 2023