• Charles Darwin University Senior Lecturer in Law Dr Susan Bird.
    Charles Darwin University Senior Lecturer in Law Dr Susan Bird.

Australia’s legislative approach to regulating food waste is lagging, hindering efforts to meet global targets according to Charles Darwin University senior lecturer in Law, Dr Susan Bird.

Australia has a policy of reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030.

“This is in line with the world’s goals however Australia and other countries are unlikely to meet this target,” Bird said.

“In Australia, we are yet to see the legislative reforms that are needed to meet the target of halving food waste by 2030. The issue must be tackled globally if we are to see any big drop in the amount of food wasted.

“There are other countries that are doing a lot more than Australia to reduce food waste.”

Bird said France has been a frontrunner, along with other countries in the European Union. She said several states in the United States have also legislated against food waste, but there is not a holistic approach.

“A global approach to food systems would be more effective, as this is more likely to close loopholes that allow the problem to be shipped offshore,” she said.

“The natural environment does not have borders, so we need to re-frame our thinking to the global scale if we are to stop food waste.”

Bird said food systems need to incorporate circular rather than linear systems of production and consumption.

She said laws need to be introduced to encourage recycling behaviour.

“For example, food waste must be composted or an extra fee must be paid,” Bird said.

“Tax incentives can also be applied to companies that rescue food, making it more attractive to donate.”

Just last week, End Food Waste Australia, the Australian Bananas Growers’ Council, Melons Australia, and the horticulture industry released a nationwide plan to help save fresh produce and halve Australia’s food waste by 2030. 

Fruits and vegetables are Australia’s most wasted foods. More than three million tonnes of fruit and vegetables go to waste every year in Australia – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the brim five times.  

New action plans have been developed to tackle horticulture food waste – identifying the nine priority actions to reduce food waste from farm to retail.

End Food Waste Australia CEO, Dr Steven Lapidge, said reducing horticulture food waste is critical to reaching Australia’s goal of halving food waste by 2030.

“Tackling fresh produce waste would provide billions of dollars of economic benefits, reduce the growing environmental impact of our food system, and will directly help feed millions more food insecure Australians every year,” he said.

The nine key action areas identified in the plan aim to reduce fresh produce food waste that occurs at every stage of the food supply chain – on farm, during transportation and manufacturing, and in retail stores.  

Interventions include improving food waste data and measurement, exploring whole crop purchasing arrangements, reviewing product specifications, improving logistics to get fresh produce to food rescue charities, investing in and growing value-add opportunities and Australia’s upcycled foods market – such freeze-dried fruits, vegetable powders – along with many more.   

“Food waste is a $36 billion challenge that is far too big for anyone, or any single sector, to tackle alone,” Lapidge said.

End Food Waste Australia is leading the development of Sector Action Plans as a key tool to reduce food waste through sector-specific analysis and collaboration across the supply chain.