Thursday, February 22, 2024

Christmas feasts accelerate food waste

Food waste expert RMIT University Research Fellow, College of Design and Social Context Dr Bhavna Middha says society needs to rethink its rituals that promote food waste.

“Entertainment, parties and eating out are front and centre as we approach the holiday season.  

“We all like to cook, buy and take large amounts of food in this festive season, both as hosts and guests and many people think it is better to have too much food than not enough. 

“But our shared practices need to be put under scrutiny, as they can often lead to extravagant food waste.  

“Food waste is an endemic issue in Australia. A total of 7.3 million tonnes of food are wasted in Australia per year, which has significant environmental consequences.  

“Reducing food waste could save the average family between $2,200 to $3,800 AUD per year.  

“But merely informing householders about food waste is not an adequate strategy to bring about change in everyday routines and activities.  

“Here’s where we can start to improve our contribution to food waste: 

  • Stop over-catering: we need to rethink how much food we supply and to accept that the food should be finished or suitably distributed by the end of events. 
  • Limit bulk-buying: structural issues such as price gouging by supermarkets as well as how everyday convenience is constructed through bulk buying needs to be investigated to determine how bulk buying is reduced beyond special times. 
  • Understand food longevity: we need a better understanding of what kind of food ages well or badly in storage and use foods before they reach their recommended best before dates. 

“Additionally, many of us don’t particularly know how long to keep leftovers in the fridge if we do want to save them for later.  

Our research found that 17% of fridges in Australian households were too cold or too warm for food storage. This means that the food we buy and store, fresh or leftover, is prone to wastage, especially if the fridge is inefficient.  

“These findings point to larger questions of relationships between food provisioning, eating and refrigerators and how these (mis)connections may be contributing to global food waste.” 

Bhavna Middha’s research focuses on exploring everyday shared practices around food, waste and energy in the context of sustainable consumption.

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