Five things you need to know about food waste

By Holly Leach

Last month, the Sustainable Business Network in partnership with Wellington City Council hosted an event to get Wellingtonians transforming their food waste into delicious recipes and beautiful compost – with help from the experts.

The event was a hit! Emily King (Spira) a food waste systems expert helped us understand the problem. Put simply, food should be in our bellies (or the bellies of many starving people around the world) instead of rotting in landfills, which releases carbon and wastes resources like the water that went into growing it.

Emily facilitated a panel with Kelda Hains, chef and co-owner of restaurant Rita; Jennifer Elliot from Wellington City Council; Sheldon Levet from Kaicycle; and Tessa Vincent, Kaibosh board member. All presented practical ways to reduce food waste across the supply chain.

As a restaurant owner, Kelda talked about having a set menu and planning the week’s meals so every bit of waste is planned for and used up (e.g. today’s offcuts can become tomorrow’s stock, old bread can become dumplings or ice cream). Her team also have a daily creativity challenge to make each other amazing lunches with any random bits left in the fridge.  Feeding staff while fighting food waste!

Jennifer talked about the amazing Love Food Hate Waste campaign and the many ways people at home can join the fight, save money and eat yummy things at the same time (check out some amazing resources and recipes.)

Sheldon, known locally as the compost king, shared some of his secrets about turning old, inedible food into fuel for fresh, new food to grow. There are a few tricks to get it right. The good news is, Kaicycle can help with workshops and you can also take your food waste to your local community gardens and join in a community compost scheme.

Finally, Tessa talked about the tonnes of edible food that Kaibosh rescues from cafés and supermarkets and drops off to communities that need it. She is leading an initiative to get 20 Food Waste Champions in New Zealand by 2020, as part of New Zealand’s efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target 12.3 – halving global food waste by 2030.

Then it was time to digest… lunch was catered by Yum Jar (a zero waste, bike delivered, lunch service in a jar) – made from food waste, of course!  Kaibosh can only donate perfect food to those in need and composts the rest. So Yum Jar Chef Ottlie and Holly, our Central Regional Manager, had spent the previous day lovingly rummaging through the non-perfect Kaibosh rescued food (fruit and veggies with a bruise or bump) and Ottlie overnight turned them into delicious Jambalar and roast veggie salads and fruit cakes for 60 people!

As if that wasn’t enough food, local chef Amber from Taco Addicts topped off the day with a live cooking demo on how to make a delicious salad from broccoli stalks, mayo from Aquafaba (chickpea juice) and how to make chips from kumara skins.

All in all, we left with full bellies and full brains, inspired to take action in our own kitchens and communities.

Five things you need to know about food waste

  1. If food waste was a country it would be the third biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. When food degrades without oxygen in landfill it releases methane to the atmosphere. Love Food Hate Waste suggests that New Zealand’s yearly food waste produces 409,234 tonnes of carbon emissions. To offset this we would need to take 150,453 cars off the road for one year or plant 163,693 trees.
  2. Food is lost and wasted across the supply chain, from the farm to factories and supermarkets. However, in New Zealand, the most food waste comes from households.
  3. There are HEAPS of easy ways to save food that would otherwise be wasted. How about trying some of the following?
  • Eat ugly food. When you cut a vegetable up, no one is going to care what it originally looked like.
  • Plan your meals and don’t get tricked into those two-for-one specials in the supermarkets.
  • Always eat your leftovers. Yesterday’s dinner for lunch is more delicious anyway!
  • Maximise your fridge and freezer but make sure you know what’s in there.

     Love Food Hate Waste has fantastic resources to help you reduce your food waste.

  1. Most things that can’t be eaten, can be composted. Love Food Hate Waste has created a composting 101 guide too, check it out here.
  2. Reducing food waste is a win win for fighting poverty AND climate change. More than 7% of households are living with insufficient food and waking up hungry. Yet we waste approximately a third of the food we produce. It’s embarrassing. Obviously, no one solution is going to tackle climate change and poverty but starting by reducing the amount of food we waste is definitely a step in the right direction.

Our next food forum will be exploring urban regenerative farming in Wellington. If you would like to be contacted when this event is live for registration please email holly@sustainable.org.nz