Not wasted: Volunteers waiting for customers at OzHarvest Market, a recycled food supermarket, in Sydney. — AFP
Sydney: A unique supermarket in Australia is giving food destined for landfills a second chance, as the government embarks on a major push to cut down on waste costing the economy A$20bil (RM65.18bil) a year.
The outlet run by food rescue organisation OzHarvest in Sydney takes surplus products normally thrown out by major supermarkets, airlines and other suppliers, and gives them away for free.
It is an attempt to tackle the mounting waste problem in Australia, where more than four million tonnes end up as rubbish each year.
“It is simply remarkable that we produce enough food to feed 60 million people a year but every month more than 600,000 people –one-third of them children – seek food relief from relevant charities,” Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said in April.
The government is drawing up an ambitious plan to halve food waste by 2030 and is convening a national summit later this year involving the private sector and non-profit organisations.
Globally, one-third of human food – about 1.3 billion tonnes costing around US$1 trillion (RM4.28 trillion) – is lost or wasted annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Such wastage is particularly conspicuous in retail, where food is thrown away “due to quality standards that over-emphasise appearance”, the UN body added.
That’s where supermarkets like OzHarvest come in, said founder Ronni Kahn, a leading voice in Australia’s food rescue community, who hopes the store will raise awareness about sustainable living.
Besides the needy, “there are people (at the supermarket) who want to take part in this sharing economy – and understanding why this produce was rejected, why is this here”, she said as she pointed to bread donated by a bakery.
Long queues have formed outside the shop since it opened in April, with the unemployed, single mothers and students among those leaving with bulging grocery bags.
What we eat or discard is just the tip of the iceberg in the production process, conservation experts say, with huge amounts of resources like fertilisers, fuel, land and water used to grow and pack food.
“When food’s wasted, all of those resources are wasted as well.
“What’s incumbent upon us is to make the most of the food that we produce, rather than producing more,” said Marcus Godinho of charity FareShare.
FareShare tackles waste by cooking large quantities of food due to expire or that farmers and manufacturers struggle to sell in a 500m² kitchen in Melbourne before freezing and storing it for distribution to the disadvantaged at a later date.
Another initiative is Yume, an online platform connecting suppliers and buyers for surplus produce at significantly discounted prices, chief Katy Barfield said.
“It can be cancelled orders, be mislabelled, brand refresh, export orders that get cancelled, or specifications unwanted by retailers,” Melbourne-based Barfield said.
Barfield, who previously headed up food rescue charity SecondBite, wants to take the platform global as she develops it to handle millions of transactions.
With Canberra stepping up, waste warriors are optimistic that incentives could reduce excess in supply chains and encourage businesses to keep surplus food fit for consumption away from landfills.
Even public institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons could make their procurement of food more sustainable by buying surplus products, Barfield added.
“It would save food going to waste, be good for the environment, be very good for the taxpayers’ pockets because we would be paying less for the food, and I think it’s a win, win, win,” she said. — AFP