$8 Billion Waste: Australia Throws Away One In Five Bags Of Food

It's time to reclaim our waste.
The average bin is made up of 40 percent food.
The average bin is made up of 40 percent food.

For every five bags full of groceries brought into the average Australian home, one is thrown out.

The sheer scale of food wastage is staggering. Uneaten food sitting in suburban bins makes up part of our nation's multi-billion dollar waste problem, yet one in six Australians still experience food insecurity.

Of the nation's entire food production industry including farming and production, one third is wasted, including an estimated 20-40 percent of fruit that is discarded before making it on the shelf.

The nation's collective soiled produce, wasted leftovers and rotting fruit equates to 450,000 full garbage trucks worth each year.

That's an estimated $8 billion thrown in the bin, because for each meal binned, the effort to grow, cook and ship it is also wasted.

Despite the waste, the Department of Agriculture's 2012 food plan found two million people rely on food relief every year.

Do Something About Food Waste infographic by lunchalot

Former event planner Ronni Kahn saw this waste first hand and it changes something in her.

"At the end of an event, I'd had so much leftover food because I didn't want anyone to go home hungry. I wanted to be generous but we'd end up with mounds of food," Kahn told The Huffington Post Australia.

"One day I thought there was food being wasted, and there were people going hungry, why don't I join the two?"

This was the beginning of food rescue charity OzHarvest.

OzHarvest founder Ronni Khan works to have Australians reduce their waste.
OzHarvest founder Ronni Khan works to have Australians reduce their waste.

She said she was naive to the global scale of the issue.

"I was totally oblivious to just how big a problem this really was," Kahn said.

"We had to change the law in four states and once we started the food rescue and I grasped the scale of the problem, I realised we couldn't do it alone."

Today OzHarvest delivers food to 900 charitable organisations and runs food and nutrition classes as well as waste education programs.

"All I can say is my life is so much richer today," Kahn said.

Looking to the future, it's clear there's a long way to go because the worst age group for food waste is 18 to 24 year olds.

Enter charity the Youth Food Movement. Founding director Alexandra Iljadica said young people wasted food for various reasons.

"Maybe we don't write a shopping list to we buy whatever excites us in the supermarket and end up with too much," Iljadica told HuffPost Australia.

"Or we have food ready to cook but someone invites us to the pub for dinner and that sounds more fun so we go out, and all that food ends up going moldy.

"There's a lot of practical stuff you can learn to avoid waste before it's created."

Reduce Your Waste

  • Make a shopping list accounting for what you actually need each week
  • Check for leftovers before cooking anything new
  • When cooking with veggies, use the whole stem and root
  • Freeze what you won't use this week

If you'd like to support HuffPost's campaign to #EndWaste in partnership with Change.org, you can start a petition or sign one here.