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Australians severely underestimating financial and environmental cost of food waste

Planet Ark 5 mins read
Schools around the country will participate in recycling activities for National Recycling Week as part of the Schools Recycle Right Challenge. Image: Planet Ark.

Planet Ark is encouraging Australian households to save themselves money and improve their environmental footprint this National Recycling Week by reducing food waste to landfill.

 

The call-to-action comes as research carried out on behalf of the environmental not-for-profit revealed households are not only vastly underestimating the costs of wasting food, but also mostly unaware of the negative environmental impact of sending food waste to landfill.

 

The nationally representative survey showed Australians estimate their household to lose just $21 per week to food waste, when the actual reported cost is almost double at $41 per week. Cumulatively, households are therefore underestimating their financial loss from food waste by over $1,000 per year. Furthermore, only two fifths of Australians correctly identified that food waste in landfill has a negative impact on the environment due to producing methane as it decomposes.

 

“We have known for some time that while news about plastic pollution grabs the headlines, the biggest waste issue in Australia is food waste,” Planet Ark CEO Rebecca Gilling said.

 

“Up to half of what the average household sends to landfill is made up of food organics and this has a negative impact not only on the hip pocket but also on our greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

When food scraps are sent to landfill, the absence of oxygen means they decompose in an anaerobic environment and produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

 

“The good news is that by reducing food waste in the first instance, by buying and storing food carefully, then reducing what is sent to landfill by composting leftover food scraps, Australians can save money and have a significant positive impact on their environmental footprint,” Gilling said.

 

The research also showed that while most Australians recycle standard kerbside recycling materials such as plastic, paper, glass and metal packaging at least weekly, only just over a third compost food scraps either at home, through council services or using community gardens at least weekly.

 

Running from November 13 - 19, National Recycling Week provides an opportunity for residents and workplaces to learn simple methods of reducing their environmental footprint and preventing waste. This year’s theme “What goes around, comes around” is all about providing simple and actionable tips that enable Australians to keep those valuable materials in circulation, whether at home, work or school.

 

Last year, independent Planet Ark research revealed Australian households were potentially sending nearly 2.5 million tonnes of unnecessary waste to landfill. An estimated 9-18 per cent (441,000 tonnes conservatively) of all material sent to landfill by households is likely recyclable, while a massive 41-52 per cent (2,000,900 tonnes conservatively) could be composted at home or organic processing facilities.

 

Addressing food waste and ensuring packaging is correctly recycled therefore form a major component of this year’s National Recycling Week resources and activities. Residents can host or join recycling themed events, brush up on their recycling knowledge with educational resources, learn about new developments in recycling policy and technology or discover tricks to reduce what they are sending to landfill and ensure resources don’t go to waste.

 

National Recycling Week was founded in 1996 as an opportunity for Australians to take waste and recycling into their own hands by improving their recycling knowledge and building better recycling habits. Since then, the annual recycling rate in Australia has increased from just 7 per cent, or 1.5 million total tonnes recycled, to more than 60 per cent of all disposed materials.

 

Planet Ark has a number of tools and tips to enable community groups, councils, households and workplaces to get involved and start reducing waste in the National Recycling Week Resource Hub.

 

National Recycling Week is made possible by Major Sponsor Coles, Associate Sponsors Coca-Cola Australia, Tetra Pak and Samsara Eco, Media Partner Seven West Media and Supporting Sponsor Mobile Muster.

 

To learn more or get involved in National Recycling Week, visit nationalrecyclingweek.com.au.

 

Key Research Statistics

  • Over two thirds (69%) of survey respondents recycle standard kerbside recycling materials (plastic, paper, glass or metals) at least weekly.
  • Only just over one third (36%) of survey respondents compost food scraps either at home, through council services or using community gardens at least weekly.
  • One fifth of survey respondents never compost food scraps at all.
  • Survey respondents estimated the average Australian household loses $21 per week ($1,092 per year) to food waste. Actual reported cost per household per week is $41 per week ($2,132 per year).
  • Only two fifths (40%) of survey respondents correctly identified that food waste in landfill has a negative effect on the environment by producing methane, a greenhouse gas.
  • ‘Saving money’ (31% of survey respondents) and ‘Reducing overall waste’ (26% of survey respondents) were the most selected motivations for reducing food waste.

 

*Research was conducted by Pollinate as part of the Pulse Report, a bi-annual quantitative study that measures environmental, social and economic issues and concerns.

**Nationally representative sample, n=1,028 Australians aged 14+​

 

-- ENDS --


Key Facts:

Campaign Information:

  • Planet Ark's National Recycling Week (November 13 - 19) was founded in 1996 to support Australians in improving their recycling knowledge and building better recycling habits.
  • Previous Planet Ark research shows Australian households send around 2.5 million tonnes of unnecessary waste to landfill, mostly food organics.
  • This year's research shows Australians underestimate both the financial and environmental costs of sending food to landfill.

 

National Recycling Week Research:

  • Over two thirds (69%) of survey respondents recycle standard kerbside recycling materials (plastic, paper, glass or metals) at least weekly.
  • Only just over one third (36%) of survey respondents compost food scraps either at home, through council services or using community gardens at least weekly.
  • One fifth of survey respondents never compost food scraps at all.
  • Survey respondents estimated the average Australian household loses $21 per week ($1,092 per year) to food waste. Actual reported cost per household per week is $41 per week ($2,132 per year).
  • Only two fifths (40%) of survey respondents correctly identified that food waste in landfill has a negative effect on the environment by producing methane, a greenhouse gas.
  • ‘Saving money’ (31% of survey respondents) and ‘Reducing overall waste’ (26% of survey respondents) were the most selected motivations for reducing food waste.

 

*Research was conducted by Pollinate as part of the Pulse Report, a bi-annual quantitative study that measures environmental, social and economic issues and concerns.

**Nationally representative sample, n=1,028 Australians aged 14+​


About us:

About Planet Ark
Planet Ark Environmental Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit organisation with a vision of a world where people live in balance with nature. Established in 1992, it is one of Australia’s leading environmental behaviour change organisations with a focus on working collaboratively and positively. Planet Ark promotes and creates simple, positive environmental actions – for everyone.

 

About National Recycling Week

Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week, founded in 1996, highlights the environmental benefits of re-use and recycling programs, while making participation enjoyable and easy through community events and programs. The dates for National Recycling Week in 2023 are Monday 13 to Sunday 19 November 2023.


Contact details:

 

For further information, interviews or images please contact:

 

Liam Taylor

Communications Manager

liam@planetark.org

02 8484 7205 / 0449 530 525

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