Sunday, March 3, 2024

Businesses unite to tackle NZ food waste

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Aim to help meet UN goal of halving food waste by 2030.
Otago University Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa said tackling food waste makes good business sense – for every $1 invested in reducing food waste, there can be a return of $14.
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Six of New Zealand’s largest food businesses have joined the Kai Commitment, a new voluntary initiative to reduce food (kai) waste and emissions (tukuwaro). 

They are Fonterra, Countdown, Goodman Fielder, Silver Fern Farms, Foodstuffs and Nestlé, which together represent more than $40 billion in collective turnover.

The initiative is being led by the New Zealand Food Waste Champions (NZFWC), a charitable organisation established to progress United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

The six companies will commit to measure their kai waste under the agreement, set an ambitious target to reduce it, and implement an action plan.

They will also collaborate on new initiatives through the supply chain.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opened Kai Commitment, saying while Kai Commitment aims to reduce emissions, it will also tackle the moral issue of New Zealanders not having access to fresh food.

Wasting food goes against Kiwi values, Ardern said.

“Fundamentally, we see ourselves as being resourceful, we see ourselves as the type of people that if we see waste, we try and reduce it and as an island nation, we are just built around this idea of making do with what we have got. 

“As New Zealanders, we would hate to know how much waste there is so this is about fundamentally reversing something that just does not sit within New Zealand culture.”

Ardern encouraged other companies to join Kai Commitment because of the global impact of food wastage.

The initiative dovetails with commitments the government has around child poverty reduction and its wider aim of emissions reduction.

Ardern said the government is working towards a food-waste reduction target, which it aims to release mid-2023.

“If we were to eliminate [global] food waste overnight, we eliminate nearly 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and we would feed millions,” Ardern said.

More data is also needed to measure the extent of NZ’s food waste problem.

It is known that in 2018, New Zealanders threw out about 157,000t of household food waste and there is much to gain from turning this around, Ardern said.

NZFWC executive director Kaitlin Dawson said the organisation has been working to this day for more than a year.

 “In New Zealand, landfilled food waste contributes 4% of our total emissions and represents a lost economic opportunity of up to $2b per year,” Dawson said.

“What’s more tragic than the numbers is that one in five Kiwi kids lives in constant hunger. Through the Kai Commitment we hope to collectively work on developing a food system in Aotearoa New Zealand that values every piece of food we produce.”

Dawson said that globally, voluntary agreements have a meaningful impact on reducing food waste. The United Kingdom’s equivalent, the Courtauld Commitment, contributed to the UK reducing food waste by 28% nationally in the last decade and being on track to meet the UN goal.

As well as thanking the first signatories, Dawson acknowledged the organisations that invested in the establishment of the project including, AGMARDT, Whakatupu Aotearoa Foundation, Countdown, Goodman Fielder, and the Ministry for the Environment.

Otago University Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa said society needs to stop accepting food waste as an ingrained part of its food system.

“It is not and it does not need to be. The good news is that reducing food waste is not only one of the best solutions we have for tackling climate change but it also just makes good business sense.”

Research shows that for every dollar invested in food waste reduction activities, $14 is returned on that investment, she said. 

 The new agreement is being supported by the Ministry for the Environment and is an action under New Zealand’s Emissions Reduction Plan.

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