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Food waste folly

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Food waste is a huge economic problem but it's the environmental and social cost of food waste that is the most problematic.

One third of the food produced is wasted and costs the Australia economy $36.6 billion a year. Food waste emissions are worse than flying, plastic and oil production, and when left to rot in landfill it creates methane which is worse than CO2. Food waste in the context of global famine and hunger makes it even more unacceptable.

Food waste emissions are worse than flying, plastic and oil production.

Waste from paddock to plate

It's a multifaceted problem due to the fact that wastage is caused at each stage of the supply chain. However, the largest wastage point is household waste (2.5 million tonnes) which costs individual households up to $2500 a year.

The starting point is land use and the fact that 25 million hectares of land is used to grow food that is never eaten. The second point is the transport and storage of food where lots of wastage occurs and then there is commercial and domestic wastage. It will take significant producer and consumer attitude adjustments to tackle this problem, which will only come from thoughtful and targeted educational interventions.

One such visionary company is Orlar who have developed revolutionary vertical pod technology to grow fresh produce. These pods can grow up to 20 plants in each two metre high stack and being vertical use only a tiny fraction of the land compared to traditional farming. The patented microbial rock technology at the heart of the design needs minimal water and also does not create any green house gases.

Using data and technology to combat food waste

Some interesting projects to combat food waste are happening in the states curtesy of the company Shelf Engine, who are using AI technology solutions to tackle food waste in supermarkets. They use predictive ordering based on recent customer data coupled with smart trolley technology and touchless checkouts.

There has also been developments in smart packaging and sensors. This new tech is being shipped with the produce to determine the point in the supply chain when food is spoiling. This means conditions can be amended to prevent further food wastage from happening in the supply chain.

There is some good news...

It will only take small changes to humans diet to make big impact. As recently reported in Nature Foods small shifts can have big positive repercussions for the environment. The study found that substituting only 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meat for fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and selected seafood could offer substantial health improvements and see a 33% reduction in dietary carbon footprint!

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