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Food Has Value

Did you know the way we produce and consume food is the single biggest threat to our planet?

In the lead-up to Earth Hour on Saturday 27 March, we are highlighting resources and perspectives on ways to take action from our own homes. Today, we look at how we can work together to reduce food waste in Aotearoa, from guest author Tessa Vincent.

Visit Save 1/3 for more information on reducing your personal food waste and to take the pledge and commit to zero waste.

Tessa Vincent is the Founding Director of New Zealand Food Waste Champions 12.3. She has a BA/ LLB (Honours), is a Kaibosh Food Rescue Trustee and favours collaborative approaches to our most pressing global issues.

Food is a precious resource. It is vital for good health, cultural expression and connecting people during social interactions. Food businesses are also crucial to the economic fabric of many countries, including New Zealand. Yet, one-third of the food we produce is lost or wasted from farm to fork1.

This leads to a number of environmental, economic and social consequences:

  • Environmentally, food waste contributes to 8% of our global greenhouse gas emissions2. Leaving food to rot in landfill generates methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Producing uneaten food also wastes water, energy, land and fertiliser. For these reasons, tackling food waste has been ranked as the third best action we can take to combat climate change3.
  • Economically, food waste can mean unnecessary costs for farmers, companies and households. Globally, wasted food amounts to economic losses of US $940 billion per year4. The average family in New Zealand throws out three shopping trolleys of food each year, equating to $6445. Tackling these issues can lead to savings for households – and a potential 14:1 return on investment for businesses6.
  • Socially, the inequity of our food system is highlighted by food waste. One in nine people in the world are undernourished7 and one in eight children in New Zealand experience material hardship8. Supporting methods like food rescue, which redistribute surplus food to people in need, can help resolve some of these social challenges.
If businesses, governments and communities all work together, we may be able to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.3 to halve food waste by 20309.

Some options to achieve this global target and inspire food waste reduction include:
  • Setting a New Zealand Food Waste Reduction Target in line with the SDG Target 12.3. This is likely to lead to measurement by the food industry against the target, to demonstrate progress. You can show your support for a target by signing this petition, which asks the government to introduce this commitment10;
  • Engaging businesses in a voluntary agreement to reduce food loss or waste. For example, the Courtauld Commitment in the United Kingdom contributed to a reduction in food waste levels by nearly 27% during a 10 year period11;
  • Investing in upcycled foods, which means creating new products out of waste streams. For example, a German fashion designer has started making clothes from surplus milk12 and the Bioresource Processing Alliance in New Zealand is supporting similar initiatives13.
  • Investing in consumer campaigns, such as Love Food Hate Waste, have been proven as effective models to raise consumer awareness and encourage the uptake food waste reduction tips such as freezing food, shopping with a list and using left-overs14. A collaborative approach is needed – which is why 12 New Zealand Food Waste Champions were born on year ago on 12.3.2020, to accelerate progress towards SDG 12.3 and halving food waste across the whole food supply chain15.

Everyone has a role to play and it starts with recognising that food has value.
1As measured by weight. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), ‘Global Food Losses and Food Waste – Extent, Causes and Prevention’, http://www.fao.org/3/mb060e/mb060e.pdf, (accessed 4 September 2020), 2011.
2FAO, ‘Food wastage footprint & Climate Change’, http://www.fao.org/3/a-bb144e.pdf (accessed 8 September 2020), citing EC, JRC/ PBL, 2012 Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research, version 4.2.
3Project Drawdown, ‘Table of Solutions’, https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
4FAO, ‘Food Wastage Footprint and Climate Change’, http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/7338e109-45e8-42da-92f3-ceb8d92002b0/, (accessed 4 September 2020), 2015.
5Love Food Hate Waste (NZ), ‘New Zealand Food Waste Audits’ , https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Final-New-Zealand-Food-Waste-Audits-2018.pdf, (accessed 5 September 2020), October 2018, p.2.
6C. Hanson and P. Mitchell, Champions 12.3, ‘The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste’, https://champions123.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/report_-business-case-for-reducing-food-loss-and-waste.pdf (accessed 5 September 2020), March 2017, p. 2.
7United Nations and FAO, ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World’, http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/2014/en/, (accessed 5 September 2020), 2014.
8Stats NZ, ‘Latest child poverty statistics released’, https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/latest-child-poverty-statistics-released (accessed 8 September 2020), February 2020.
9FAO, ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, http://www.fao.org/sustainable-development-goals/indicators/1231/en/, (accessed 8 September 2020), SDG 12.3 in full is: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses).
10ActionStation and NZ Food Waste Champions, ‘Halve food waste by 2030’, https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/halve-food-waste-by-2030, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
11WRAP, ‘The Courtauld Commitment’, http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/what-is-courtauld, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
12QMILK, ‘The material of the future’, https://www.qmilkfiber.eu/?lang=en, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
13Bioresource Processing Alliance, ‘About Us’, https://bioresourceprocessing.co.nz/about/, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
14Love Food Hate Waste, https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.
15NZ Food Waste Champions, https://www.nzchampions123.org/, (accessed 8 September 2020), 2020.