“Mummy, when the rubbish truck comes, where does our rubbish go?”

Piled Public Rubbish Bin Food Waste
I must confess, since having my third baby, who is now 11 months old, I have been overly sensitive, with a quick escalation of emotions. But when my 4-year-old son asked me this very innocent question, I found it quite confronting. “… where does our rubbish go?” 

I spiraled hard & fast into shame, guilt, embarrassment…

Initially I thought; “how can I make this sound not as bad as it is?”.  I didn’t want him to think that as humans, we are terrible.  Then I thought, “maybe he won’t even understand yet that it is terrible, so why bother hiding it?” But then I just went with, “it is terrible, I need to tell him & he needs to learn early to try to create less rubbish”.

They take it to another big rubbish pile further away.” I mean, really? How bad does that sound when you hear it aloud? “… Some gets recycled into other things but only if it gets separated before going into the big pile. That’s why it’s important to try to recycle or even better, have less rubbish”

We see so much rubbish on the streets.  Lazy bums we call “naughty people”. They should be publicly shamed like Cersei in the Game of Thrones. I get that sometimes bins aren’t “convenient” but it wouldn’t be “convenient” to be overrun by rodents either really. It’s not an excuse.  There isn’t one. Humans can be disrespectful & rude & this is something we can see evidence of with all the rubbish around us each & every day.

Waste is just shameful

There is so much waste EVERYWHERE!  Things that can be recycled, upcycled & that have so much more use in them.  Shopping at the salvo’s is cool.  Carrying your paper latte take away cup everyday, sometimes twice a day, is not. 

Of all the waste though, food waste is the worst. 

Food wastage in Australia is ridiculous

In Australia, over 5 billion tons1 of food fit for human consumption is going to waste, every year. The economic cost of that waste has risen from $5.2 billion in 20092 to, $9.6 billion in 2017 as suggested in the latest report from Rabodirect3. This equates to an average of over $1000 per household annually.

According to OzHarvest, Australia’s top five wasted foods are:

  1. Bread
  2. Bananas
  3. Bagged lettuce & salad
  4. Meat
  5. Milk

I found it interesting most recently going to buy a fridge/freezer. I was annoyed I couldn’t buy one with a decent sized freezer & the salesman told me that “freezer space is not in demand any more as people are wanting more space for “fresh foods”. This is great..as long as we use this fresh food we are buying.  

Governments are trying to help make change

A Food Waste Summit was recently held in Melbourne to continue tackling this escalating problem & they have committed to a body being established to work with all parties to reduce this complex issue which is food waste1.  

According to the last tracking survey from the NSW govt’s “Love Food; Hate Waste” program; we are “saying” we are getting more concerned about waste/environment5, but we are not changing our behaviors to back up those concerns.

We are all hearing the noise about climate change yet published estimates indicate that 14 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions are caused by food waste2.

Being pushed for time will be the end of us

There is so much irony & contradiction in the way we live & the choices we make.  We are all so short on time these days. So much so, that we can justify eating convenience foods; single portions that are packaged neatly in their plastic or paper containers.  Single portions of convenience foods that are generally highly processed & unhelpful to our long term health….& many of them not cheap either. 

So, we are trying to save time in the short term, by eating foods that increase our likeliness of having LESS TIME in the long term; whilst also destroying the planet (& our health system). 

What can you do?

Do something!! Start small.  Pick one thing you want to change & commit.  

Here are some ideas:

  • Stop using/accepting plastic bags when you shop.
    • Be organized with some jute shopping bags permanently in the car or at the front door ready for when you leave.
  • Buy the “not so perfect” fruits & vegetables that are a discount price, like “The Odd Bunch” from Woolworths.
  • Stop throwing out edible food!
    • There is this sense of pride growing that if I can afford to throw out food, I must be wealthy! If this is you, you need to get better friends.
    • People are also so worried about germs & bugs, that anything that is a potential hazard must be thrown. Seriously? We would all be a bit tougher if we ate more bugs.  We are all getting too “clean” & it’s affecting our health & our environment.
    • If you really want to throw edible food, look at your options in giving someone else a chance to take it. There are many food rescue groups popping up in communities now.
    • Understand that the “Best Before” & “Use By” dates on packages are different. Check out this link to get up to speed. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/labelling/dates/Pages/default.aspx
  • Get a worm farm or compost to reuse your food waste. Many local councils run incentive schemes & programs to help you achieve this. Look them up.
  • Plan your meals a little better, so you don’t have the waste you do, &/or, so you don’t have to buy convenience foods all the time.
  • Stop buying single serves of things. Buy bigger packs & put serves into Tupperware containers. 
  • Stop paying for bottled water.
    • We are so so, so lucky to have clean water on tap. Buy a reusable bottle & plan ahead.
  • Get a reusable coffee cup for your regular caffeine hit & ask your barista to offer a discount scheme to encourage this from others.
  • If you have kids, when eating out, buy one meal for 2 then order more if they eat it all.

We can’t all be perfect. I get it. But even if you just make one positive change, ironically it will be you that directly benefits.  More money in your back pocket, healthier food in your belly & less waste to take out to the bins all the time!

  1. http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2017/11/20/national-food-waste-reduction-body-to-be-established.html
  2. http://futuredirections.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FDI_SAP_13_May_2014_Food_Waste_in_Australia.pdf
  3. https://www.rabodirect.com.au/-/media/rabodirect-australia/files/fhb/rabodirect_food&farming_report_web_oct_2017.pdf?la=en
  4. http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2017/07/24/australias-top-5-wasted-food-ingredients.html
  5. Love Food Hate Waste Food Waste Tracking Survey EPA 2016 NSW ISBN:97810EH2016/0262