Tackling Food Waste


New South Wales will realistically never be a ‘zero waste society’. But as the CEO of OzHarvest Ronni Kahn will tell you it won’t be for want of trying. After tireless lobbying by Kahn and OzHarvest, in 2005 NSW passed into law an amendment which allowed food donors to donate surplus food without fear of liability. With this change in legislation OzHarvest was free to engage in what is now its core business – collecting and redistributing waste food that would otherwise end up in landfill.   They now supply more than 500 charities across all major Australian cities who depend on their collection of food from supermarkets, farmers and commercial food outlets such as cafes and restaurants, to feed society’s most vulnerable.

It is astounding that Australia produces enough food to feed approximately 60 million people, yet two million people still rely on food relief every year. Three years ago, it was estimated that businesses in NSW sent 400,000 tonnes of food waste to landfill each year, 75 per cent of which never even made it to a customer’s plate.

With companies like OzHarvest working together with government programs like Love Food Hate Waste, there are significant inroads being made in regards to this global challenge. The latest figures –from the most comprehensive business waste audit ever undertaken – indicate that figure has dropped to 170,000 tonnes.

In addition to the Love Food Hate Waste program and its ongoing co-operation with organisations like OzHarvest the NSW Government is supporting food donation services by providing funding for equipment like refrigerated vans and fridgers and feezers to help not-for-profit organisations across  NSW to expand services or introduce new ones where they don’t currently exist.

Unavoidable food waste, like vegie scraps and plate waste is also being collected and recycled into compost rather than being put into landfill. We are investing $43 million over five years in infrastructure to increase our capacity to process that extra waste that is collected.

As a keen gardener myself I was also interested to read recently about suburban Sydney households taking up permaculture as a means of dealing with living costs, shunning the large supermarket chains but also avoiding wasteful processes involved in commercial agricultural practices. The article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 17th of April described the backyard of Linda and Nevin Sweeney who produce about 80 per cent of their food in suburban St Clair.

There is clearly a quiet but exciting revolution going on in culinary culture in Sydney. Our attitude to food is changing, not just with regards to how it tastes but how it sourced, grown and wasted.

OzHarvest launched their third ‘Think.Eat.Save’ campaign on the 27th of July 2015 where thousands of members of the enjoyed a free lunch prepared by Ozharvest, made from rescued food. Shayne attended, representing the Minister for Environment.