How Food Businesses Can Help Tackle Australia’s Food Waste Problem

Learn seven practical ways in which foodservice operators can start managing and reducing their food waste today.

Globally, as many as 811 million people were impacted by hunger in 2020 and nearly one in three(2.37 billion people) did not have access to adequate food. While global hunger continues to rise, it is estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually.

Food waste is also a major problem in Australia. Each year over 7.6 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted; this equates to about 312kg per person. While 70% of this food is still perfectly edible, one in six Australian adults didn’t have enough to eat in 2021. An altogether more deflating way of looking at these statistics is that there is enough food to feed everyone — it’s just being wasted.

This issue was described in depth in the National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study. According to this report:

  • Food waste costs the Australian economy around $36.6 billion or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year.
  • 17.5 million tonnes of CO2-e is generated annually from the production and disposal of food wasted in Australia (excluding the emissions associated with exported food). This is equivalent to the annual emissions from Australia’s highest emitting coal-fired power station.
  • Food waste accounts for approximately 3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 25% of the water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is wasted.

What is Australia’s government doing about it?

To combat this issue, Australia has set a goal to halve its food waste by 2030. This aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that, by 2030, all people can enjoy peace and prosperity.

The actions required to reduce food waste are laid out in the National Food Waste Strategy, the country’s ‘Roadmap for Reducing Australia’s Food Waste by Half by 2030’ and the National Waste Policy Action Plan.

Some of the initiatives outlined in these documents include:

  • A $4 million investment to establish Stop Food Waste Australia, which will implement the Australian Food Pact and other initiatives to reduce food waste across the supply chain.
  • Developing the Australian Food Pact voluntary agreement for industry, which brings together organisations from corners of the food supply chain to identify solutions that reduce food waste.
  • Redistributing more food that would otherwise be wasted by diverting it towards the food rescue sector.
  • Investing in agricultural efficiency and innovation, waste treatment infrastructure and other ways to create value from food waste.

How can food businesses in Australia reduce food waste?

Of course, the foodservice sector plays a huge part in the current food waste problem. This was underscored in the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2021 Food Waste Index, which found that an estimated 26% of food wastage comes from the foodservice sector. This once again highlights the need for food businesses to make a conscious effort to reduce food waste. 

In addition to the environmental impact, there are operational reasons why food businesses should focus on reducing waste:

  • When food goes unused in the kitchen, foodservice operators are wasting good money on disposal. This is on top of the costs incurred by ordering, prepping and cooking the food.
  • Today’s customer is concerned about climate issues and more discerning in choosing which businesses to support. Installing a thorough food waste policy shows that you care, and is a positive selling point you can shout about on your website and/or social media.

For Australian food businesses, the social and environmental motivations behind reducing food waste are clear. But what exactly can be done at an operational level? Below are seven ways in which foodservice operators can start managing and reducing their food waste today.

  1. Perform a waste audit. The first step in identifying the biggest food waste sources is to measure your current output. The ‘three bin’ approach is an easy way to start doing this. Install three labelled bins to collect food waste from separate areas: kitchen prep, spoiled food and customer plates. Monitor how much waste is collected from each location over a set period of time. Once you’ve identified where your biggest problems lie, you can introduce targeted measures to tackle them.
  2. Get staff involved. Emphasise the importance of reducing food waste across your company and ensure that employees understand how waste should be segregated. Empower your staff to reduce waste wherever possible and provide incentives for doing so.
  3. Keep a close eye on portion control. Be more conscious of offering oversized food portions. Monitor which dishes come back with food on the plate and reduce portion sizes accordingly. There is absolutely no point in serving huge amounts of food if they are destined for the bin. This exercise serves a dual purpose in the age of calorie labelling. If you are including the calories per dish in your menu, it makes sense to reduce calories in dishes that often go unfinished.
  4. Offer a take-home option. If customers have any food left, give them the option of taking leftovers away with them.
  5. Monitor and manage supply orders. It can be tempting to buy in bulk, but doing so can often leave you with surplus food that winds up in the waste disposal. Ensure that you only purchase ingredients at volumes that you know your kitchen will use.
  6. Look for alternatives to landfill. Be sure to put any food waste you have to good use. Compostable food bins can include things like fruit and vegetable peelings, baked goods, grains, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags. Local farms can use this compost as fertiliser when growing vegetables and crops.
  7. Donate. Ensure that any food you can’t use goes to a good home. One option is to use a food rescue service OzHarvest or a similar enterprise. You could also work with a local food bank to donate any leftover meals and/or ingredients.

One smart way that food businesses can reduce food waste is through using an automated stock management and food ordering system. If you’d like to learn more, visit