Wasting Away

Nina Matsumoto wants you to waste less.

1.3 billion tonnes. That’s the weight of ‘The Mountain’ from Game of Thrones – if he was cloned 6 842 195 263.16 times. It’s also one of those numbers, like the US deficit, or Gangam Style’s total youtube hits, so large that it seems almost meaningless. 1.3 billion tonnes is the amount of food people waste every year – equivalent to 1/3rd of all food produced globally.

We waste a staggering 45% of all fruit and vegetables produced annually, and 20% of all meat – a figure equivalent to raising 75 million cattle, just to slaughter them for no reason. Adding insult to injury, this waste occurs as almost a billion people go without sufficient food.

Some food waste has an obvious fix. It turns out that humans aren’t the only things subjected to unrealistic beauty standards – most supermarkets and stores have an ‘aesthetic wastage policy’, under which fruits and vegetables are discarded because of minor cosmetic issues such as spotting. This policy no doubt helps to explain estimates that fruit and vegetables are responsible for 85% of the wasted food mass in large supermarkets.

Finally, as clichéd as it may sound, consumers need to change their own behaviour.

In Australia, consumers waste around 20% of all food they purchase, at a cost of close to $1000 per household each year. And young people (aged 18-24) have been identified as some of the worst offenders, wasting an average of $25 worth of food each week. That means you: law student whose hands are hovering above the lid of the garbage bin with half of the taste baguette you just bought but don’t want because “There’s Brie on this, but Camembert is my soft cheese of choice”.

Tips to cut down on food wastage: 

  • Do: Sydneysiders are lucky to have access to Harris Farm Markets’ imperfect food program. Under this program, fruit and vegetables that didn’t pass aesthetic quality control are sold in-store and online at a substantial discount. For more information, see harrisfarm.com.au/blogs/campaigns/15320613-imperfect-picks/ .
  • Do: Get better at storing your fresh fruit and vegetables. Gelpck produce “Fresh and Crisp” vegetable bags which can help you keep your produce fresh for up to three weeks, and are available at Woolworths and Coles.
  • Do: buy UHT milk, it keeps for longer even in the fridge.
  • Do: Freeze EVERYTHING. Meat keeps for 6-8 months in the freezer. As a side tip: defrost your meat in the fridge, not on the bench, to avoid giving yourself food poisoning.
  • Don’t: think that dumpster diving will solve the problem, you self-righteous fuckwit. By all means fish in skip bins to your heart’s content, we’re all adults here and you probably deserved the gastro anyway.

Illustration by Monica Renn.