Monday, June 17, 2024

Aussies underestimate costs of food waste

Planet Ark is encouraging Australians to save themselves money and improve their environmental footprint this National Recycling Week (13-19 November) by reducing food waste to landfill.

The call-to-action comes as research carried out on behalf of the environmental not-for-profit revealed households aren’t only “vastly” underestimating the costs of wasting food, but also “mostly” unaware of the negative environmental impact of sending food waste to landfill.

The nationally representative survey showed Australians estimate their household to lose just $21 per week to food waste, when the actual reported cost is almost double at $41 per week. Cumulatively, households are, therefore, underestimating their financial loss from food waste by over $1000 per year. Furthermore, only two fifths of respondents correctly identified that food waste in landfill has a negative impact on the environment due to producing methane as it decomposes.

“We’ve known for some time that while news about plastic pollution grabs the headlines, the biggest waste issue in Australia is food waste,” says Planet Ark CEO Rebecca Gilling.

“Up to half of what the average household sends to landfill is made up of food organics and this has a negative impact not only on the hip pocket but also on our greenhouse gas emissions.”

When food scraps are sent to landfill, explains Planet Ark, the absence of oxygen means they decompose in an anaerobic environment and produce methane, a “powerful” greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

“The good news is that by reducing food waste in the first instance, by buying and storing food carefully, then reducing what is sent to landfill by composting leftover food scraps, Australians can save money and have a significant positive impact on their environmental footprint,” says Ms Gilling.

The research also showed that while “most” Australians recycle standard kerbside recycling materials such as plastic, paper, glass and metal packaging at least weekly, only just over a third of respondents compost food scraps either at home, through council services or using community gardens at least weekly.

About National Recycling Week

National Recycling Week provides an opportunity for residents and workplaces to learn simple methods of reducing their environmental footprint and preventing waste.

This year’s theme, ‘What goes around, comes around, is all about providing simple and actionable tips that enable Australians to keep those valuable materials in circulation, whether at home, work or school.

National Recycling Week was founded in 1996 as an opportunity for Australians to take waste and recycling into their own hands by improving their recycling knowledge and building better recycling habits. Since then, the annual recycling rate in Australia has increased from 7%, or 1.5 million total tonnes recycled, to more than 60% of all disposed materials.

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