Australia produces a whopping 7.6 million tonnes of food waste each year, but a growing push to turn this rubbish into treasure is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and saving money.
From farm animal feed to cosmetics, industries and businesses are finding innovative ways to keep food waste from going to landfill.
Could your skincare products be made from food waste?
Australians spend billions of dollars on beauty products every year.
But the idea of using cosmetics made from food scraps is a bit off-putting to avid consumers like Mackay wife Shaye Crofts.
“It just sounds really gross,” she says.
However, the future of cosmetics could see debris on our faces.
Professor Colin Barrow of Deakin University says it’s an emerging market.
“There is a lot of potential value from natural materials in the cosmetic ingredient market,” says Professor Barrow.
Professor Barrow is leading a research team looking to tackle the problem of food waste in Australia.
He says that the high levels of collagen in fish skin, for example, could be made into skin care products.
But he says the public needs to get on board.
“The consumer doesn’t want to hear about food being wasted on their face, so there’s kind of a disconnect,” he says.
“I think we have to change this whole perception of what is waste because food stuff is a valuable resource, whether it’s used for an edible purpose or reused in another way.”
On the front line of the war against waste
For North Queensland cattle feed producer John Lockhart, the priority is less about people and more about his animals when it comes to reducing food waste.
The concept is simple. It takes leftover produce from your local grocery store, sources grain from local farmers, and turns it into farm animal feed.
The beans are grown locally as a rotation crop with sugar cane.
Lockhart says it’s a symbiotic relationship that keeps fruits and vegetables from ending up in landfills.
“Landfills cost money and they also put methane into the environment,” he says.
Lockhart says that, on average, he turns about half a ton of fruits and vegetables from his local grocery store into cattle feed each week.
It’s an idea he wants to see used more widely.
“I think it’s a great shame that we don’t do this on a larger scale because there is a daily surplus of fruit and vegetables,” he says.
Supermarkets committed to zero food waste
Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have committed to reducing their carbon footprint.
Woolworths says it has made good progress in recent years on its goal of diverting 100 per cent of food waste from landfill by 2025.
“All of our stores have a food waste association so that unsaleable food is still put to good use through donations to local hunger relief or animal feed charities,” says a spokesperson.
“In April, Woolworths and OzHarvest reached the milestone of donating the equivalent of 50 million meals since the beginning of their partnership.”
Coles, likewise, says the company has been reusing and diverting its food waste.
“Our first option for unsold edible food is to donate it to food rescue organizations like SecondBite and Foodbank,” says a spokesperson.
“Other food waste solutions include donations to farmers and animal or wildlife services, organic collections, and in-store food waste disposal kits.”