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Waste Reduction

Which of the three types are you

Every year, Australian households throw away about 2,5 million tonnes of food. The majority (73%) of the food waste is disposed in landfill.

Methane is produced when food waste in landfills rots. This is expensive and contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions . Reducing household food waste and diverting it away from landfills saves money and improves food security. It also benefits the environment.

We need to know how people produce and dispose of waste food in order to address this problem. In we found that households fall into three categories, based on how much food is wasted, whether it can be avoided, and how the waste is sorted. These insights into consumer behavior point out where improvements are most needed.

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre offers tips and tricks to reduce household food waste.

Three types of households

Between April and May 2020, we conducted a survey online of 939 households located in the metropolitan Adelaide area.

The sample was a close match to the Australian population as far as gender, income and age were concerned.

We asked for information on the types of waste food produced, the average amount of waste food thrown away in a given week, and the motivations behind reducing and sorting waste food.

There are three types of households:

Warriors tend to be older and are highly motivated in reducing and sorting food waste. They produce minimal waste (9.6 L per week), which is mostly unavoidable, such as vegetable peels and bones. This group accounted for 39.6%.

The strugglers are mainly families with children, who produce the most food waste (33 litres per a week). The highest percentage of food waste is produced by families with children, including uneaten fruit and vegetables, cereals, and bread. Despite a moderate motivation to reduce and sort their food waste, more than half still ends up on landfill. This group accounted for 19.6% of all samples.

Lazy tend to be younger. They are not concerned about sorting or reducing food waste. The slackers waste the least amount of food (9 liters per week), but their proportion of avoidable waste (such as mixed leftovers) was higher (38.9%), compared to warriors (24.5%). More than twice as many of them live in units (17.2%) compared to 7.8% warriors. This group accounted for 40.8%.

Three types of household with typical characteristics and behaviours regarding food waste. Trang Nguyen using Canva.comCC BY-NC-ND

Read more: We can’t keep putting apartment residents’ waste in the too hard basket

What can households do about their food waste?

Reduced household food waste requires changing both the behaviours of food management (upstream) and waste management (downstream).

Upstream measures are designed to reduce food waste. Households can, for example, avoid cooking or buying too much food. It is important to help households plan and purchase the right amount of food.

After food waste is produced, downstream actions are taken. Now, the focus is on how to handle and dispose of these wastes.

If households recycle food waste, they begin to think more about how they buy and cook.

In Australia, local councils are primarily responsible for managing food waste.

Three ways to drive behaviour change and reduce household food waste:

The FOGO interactive maps shows local government areas with a current food waste collection service. Data is up to date as of February 20, 2023. Bright green is FOGO, dark green is garden organics only. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

The councils should at least offer this option. It ensures that the infrastructure needed to sort food waste is readily available.

Unfortunately, less than half of Australian councils offer garden organics, and only one quarter of councils have a FOGO.

Explore the FOGO Interactive Map and see how your region stacks up.

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Jane S. King

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