Waste that could feed millions


COFFSHARBOURrestaurateur Nathan Corcoran doesn't like to see food wasted, but it seems not everyone feels the same.

A Planet Ark report has found that Australians are throwing away nearly 3.3 million tonnes of food every year, mostly because of over-shopping and waste at the table. "Generally, people leave about 15 to 20 per cent on their plate," the owner of Starfish Cafe said.

"You weigh up people's wants and needs. If you see the same thing happening over and over again, you can review the size of your portions, but at the same time, if you cut down too much and people go away hungry, they'll look for somewhere else to eat."

And while Mr Corcoran says he can't safeguard completely against people leaving food on their plates, he has more control over how much food is wasted during preparation.

"Because we manufacture everything from scratch, we generate very little waste in food preparation. We utilise different things for different products. So for example, you can use the pulp of tomatoes for one thing and the skin for another."

Planet Ark analysed Australian waste statistics and overseas studies to come to their findings, estimating as much as a quarter of our food is ending up in landfill.

"We are generating so much food waste that we are creating food mountains every day," Planet Ark founder Jon Dee said.

"When you consider how many people are starving in the world it's criminal that Australians are wasting so much food."

The findings mirror a recent report by Australia Institute, which estimates that Australia's total food wastage is worth $5.3 billion a year.

This represents more than 13 times the $36 million donated by Australian households to overseas aid agencies in 2003.

In fact it's almost half of all the food aid distributed in 2004 to feed the world's 825 million starving, which amounted to 7.5 million tonnes.

By wasting all this food, we not only waste the resources that create and transport that food, including water and petrol but, of course, we also waste our money.

In 2003-04, Coffs Harbour generated about 100,000 tonnes of waste, which included all waste, not just food waste, and has been steadily increasing. This amounted to about 1600 kilograms of waste per person, out of which nearly 600 kilograms went to landfill. A December 2003 survey found that 47 per cent of waste going to landfill was food waste.

But despite an increase in population and waste generation in the region, the amount of waste going to landfill has only increased slightly since 1996, as more and more waste gets recycled or composted.

Planet Ark is calling for the Federal Government to introduce a national rubbish audit to track and minimise waste. It wants councils to offer more kerbside food waste recycling services and consumers to take more care when cooking and shopping.

In Coffs Harbour, the construction of a waste-processing facility is under way and expected to start operating in April next year.

The facility will help reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfill for Bellingen, Nambucca Heads and Coffs Harbour by transforming waste into useable resources such as fuel, compost and recyclable materials.

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