Food waste

in Australia this year

$

Food wastage

in Australia today

$

Food-related carbon emissions

in Australia this year

tonnes

Food-related carbon emissions

in Australia today

tonnes

Reduce, reuse, recycle

We are mostly all familiar with the topics of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Help reduce your contribution to landfill by reducing the amount of packaged products your purchase, recycling all materials that you can, start composting and reuse any containers that you can.

Reducing, reusing and recycling packaging

Reduce, reuse, recycleIf food packaging isn’t recycled or reused in some way, it generally ends up in landfill. This takes up space and results in soil and water contamination and the production of methane.(1) When something is thrown away we lose the natural resources (for example, water, oil and timber), energy and time that have been used to make the product, many of which are not renewable and cannot be replaced.(2) The use of these scarce resources cannot go on indefinitely. Queenslanders send more waste to landfill than most other states of Australia- a staggering 32.6 million tonnes per year- and this number is increasing.(3) To put this in perspective, if the average Queenslander weighs 70kg, then Queenslanders generate five times their body weight in household waste alone. However, in the past we have been able to make substantial changes to how much waste we produce, and we can do it again. Between 1996/97 and 2001/02, Queenslanders decreased the amount of waste they generated by 21% by focusing on recycling and at home methods of waste disposal such as composting.(4)

Did you know?

Plastic bottles and aluminium cans take hundreds of years to decompose, while glass bottles will spend around one million years decomposing in landfill, despite all of these products being recyclable!(5)

A typical household that is recycling 3.76 kilograms per week can avoid generating 106 kilograms of carbon dioxide each year.(6)

There are 3.3 million tonnes of packaging produced each year in Australia (7). This requires huge amounts of energy for its production and transport.

It takes the same amount of energy to produce 20 aluminium cans by recycling as it does to produce one can from raw material.(8)

 

When shopping, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much packaging does this product have and is there an alternative available with less packaging?
  • Has this packaging been made from recycled goods?
  • Can this packaging be reused or recycled when I’ve finished with it?


Top tips for food shopping

  • Buy fruit and vegetables loose or in paper bags
  • Take re-useable bags with you to the supermarket or farmers' markets and get into the habit of carrying a spare.
  • Look for biodegradable packaging, such as cardboard or cornstarch-based containers and buy these in preference to products wrapped in bulky plastic or polystyrene.
  • Buy a single larger sized container of your favourite foods (e.g. yoghurt) and serve it in smaller jars or containers instead of buying individually packaged portions.
  • Look for food items in refillable or reusable containers when you shop.(9)

Check your local council website for information on what is recyclable in your area.Other clever ideas

  • Check your local council website for information on what is recyclable in your area. You might be surprised how many additional items you could be recycling.
  • Keep an eye on how much rubbish accumulates in your non-recycling bin (consider this your ‘landfill bin’). This will help you to see how much progress you’re making with reducing, reusing and recycling. You might even like to take the Ecofriendly Food Challenge (Week 1) on reducing your food related waste.
  • Reuse jars and bottles for alternative purposes around the house and garden.

Composting food waste

Around two-thirds of all waste deposited in landfill are organic items such as food scraps and garden clippings.Around two-thirds of all waste deposited in landfill is made up of organic items such as food scraps and garden clippings.(10) When food and plant waste is broken down by bacteria in landfill, greenhouse gases are produced. When food and plant waste is broken down by bacteria in a compost system that is regularly ‘turned’ to provide the bacteria with oxygen, the harmful greenhouse gases are not formed. Composting or recycling food and garden waste can reduce an individual’s waste by 50%, this means a reduction in landfill of around 560kg each year per person.(11) Compost can also reduce a household's water consumption and the need for fertilisers when it is spread on the garden.(12) It can improve soil quality and help the garden to flourish. Composting can be easy. Even if you live in a small apartment, you could set up a communal compost bin or have a worm farm on your balcony!

Start composting today

  1. Choose the right place. A well drained area with some shade is best for your compost heap or bin.
  2. Layer. Place a thick layer (10-15cm) of coarse materials such as sticks or mulch down the bottom for drainage. Place layers of food scraps, garden clippings and damp paper over this. Water the layers to make them moist but not soaking wet. Sprinkle some soil over the top.
  3. Know what to compost. For more information on composting, click here
  4. Maintenance. Turn your compost with a garden fork on a weeky basis to keep it aerated and prevent the bacteria from producing greenhouse gases. Alternatively, place garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air to circulate.(13)

References

  1. Knight L, Khan F. Human Settlements [internet]. 2007 [cited 2010 July 7]. Available from: www.derm.qld.gov.au/environmental_management/state_of_the_environment/state_of_the_environment_queensland_2007/state_of_the_environment_queensland_2007_contents/human_settlements_solid_waste_management.html
  2. Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s not waste our future [internet]. 2007 [cited 2010 July 8]. Available from: www.derm.qld.gov.au/register/p02217aa.pdf
  3. Department of Environment and Resource Management. (2010). Queensland’s Waste Strategy 2010-2020 [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 8]. Available from: www.derm.qld.gov.au/environmental_management/waste/strategy/pdf/waste-consultation-draft.pdf
  4. State of the Environment Queensland. Waste Outputs [internet]. 2005 [cited 2010 July 8]. Available from: www.derm.qld.gov.au/register/p01258cg.pdf
  5. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Waste and Recycling: Litter [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 8]. Available from: www.environment.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=2435
  6. Department of Environment and Conservation NSW. Benefits of Recycling [internet]. 2005 [cited 2010 July 8]. Available from: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/warr/2005139_gov_benefitrecyrpt.pdf
  7. Boomerang Alliance. Packaging Waste in Australia: an overview [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 5]. Available from: www.boomerangalliance.org/000_files/28_container_deposits.pdf
  8. Sustainability Victoria. Waste Wise Facts and Stats [internet]. 2009 [cited 2010 July 20]. Available from: www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/resources/documents/Section_6.pdf
  9. Radcliffe B. The Qld Food Challenge: Food Guidelines for a Sustainable Environment. Nutrition Promotion Unit, Eight Mile Plains Community Health Centre, Qld Health. 2009 [cited 2010 June 28].
  10. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts. National Waste Policy Fact Sheet [internet]. 2009 [cited 2010 July 5]. Available from: www.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/publications/pubs/fs-national-waste-policy.pdf
  11. Australian Conservation Foundation. Using your green waste [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 5]. Available from: www.acfonline.org.au/news.asp?news_id=154
  12. Australian Conservation Foundation. Using your green waste [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 5]. Available from: www.acfonline.org.au/news.asp?news_id=154
  13. Clean up Australia. Composting [internet]. 2010 [cited 2010 July 9]. Available from: www.cleanup.org.au/au/LivingGreener/composting.html
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