Friday, December 1, 2023

Kiwi food waste bill climbs to $3.2bn

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You could feed 688,000 Kiwis for a year on what we throw away.
Reducing food waste will be key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says a Rabobank paper on the future of food production in NZ. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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New Zealand’s overall food waste bill has continued to climb, up 2.6% to reach $3.2 billion, the 2023 Rabobank-KiwiHarvest Food Waste survey says.

The value of NZ’s food waste is equivalent to the cost of feeding 688,000 Kiwis for a year.

The lift is a result of there being more households and increases in the household food spend,  and more than balances out a fall in the estimated percentage of household food waste, which dropped from 13.4% in 2022 to 12.2%.

The survey – undertaken in late July and early August – also found the value of food wasted per household remains relatively unchanged ($1510 from $1520 last year) due to higher food prices. 

Rabobank NZ head of sustainable business development Blake Holgate said it is pleasing to see the estimated percentage of food waste fall in the latest survey, despite only marginal change in Kiwis’ food waste attitudes and reported behaviours across the last year.

“Our assumption was that high food price inflation across the last 12 months might have driven some bigger changes in food waste behaviours and attitudes, but the survey results show these were largely comparable to 2022,” he said.

According to the survey, the key reasons for wasting food continue to be “food going off before you can finish it” (50%) and “before use-by and best-before dates” (32%), while the major food waste concerns remain  “cost” (74%) and “feelings of guilt that other people around NZ going without” (35%).

The types of foods being wasted are similar to last year’s results, with vegetables (38%), bread (29%) and fruit (25%) continuing to hold the top three spots on the list.

While survey results are broadly consistent with last year, KiwiHarvest founder Deborah Manning said improvements in a few key areas have helped drive the small drop in estimated food waste.

“One of the major positives in the survey findings was that more Kiwis are now correctly defining what is meant by a best-before food label.

“And this flowed through to a sizeable lift in the number of people saying they routinely eat food after best-before dates when the food is not damaged or perished.”

The survey also found more than four times as many Kiwis thought their household has  decreased food waste over the past 12 months compared to those saying it had increased.

“And among those Kiwis saying their food waste had fallen, better planning, eating leftovers, and buying less food were the three major drivers cited for this change,” Manning said.

Holgate said there remains plenty of scope for New Zealanders to further improve their food waste behaviours.

“While the 2023 survey found food waste was lower than in 2022, it’s important to note last year’s survey saw the highest estimated food waste we’ve seen across any of the food waste surveys Rabobank have conducted over the last six years.

“And this year’s estimated food waste – at 12.2% – is still well above the low of 8.6% recorded in the 2021.

“Given this, it’s absolutely vital that, as a country, we continue to place a strong focus on

educating the public about the negative financial and environmental impacts of food waste.

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