Food waste is a growing area of concern with many costs to our community in terms of waste collection, disposal and greenhouse gas. When your rotting food ends up in landfill it turns into methane, a greenhouse gas that is particularly damaging to the environment. Food waste also wastes the valuable water and energy used to grow the food, and costs you money.
Shopping and planning
It's simple to reduce the waste your household generates from food and packaging. Much of the food waste in our kitchens comes from inadequate planning or simply buying too much food.
It's important to plan meals around what food is left in your fridge, as a large proportion of food waste comes from food that's past its use-by date. Plan your shopping too—having a list will help keep you on track and save you money.
The other reason we tend to waste food is because we cook or prepare too much. Portion control means preparing just the right amount. Work out how much you and your family really eat, and check a portion guide.
You can also get creative with leftovers and put even small leftovers in the fridge or freezer for a handy lunch or snack. There are plenty of websites with new and traditional recipes that make use of leftovers to provide nutritious and delicious meals. Make sure you practice energy-efficient cooking.
Storage in the fridge
Keep your food fresh and avoid wasting energy by having your fridge set at the right temperature—between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius for the fridge and between minus 15 and minus 18 degrees Celsius for the freezer. Use a fridge thermometer to check. Airtight containers are great for keeping leftovers, plus they make good reusable sandwich boxes.
Lots of food can be stored in the freezer until you need it.
The majority of packaging that comes with your food can be avoided or recycled. Fresh food doesn't need packaging and can be placed in your own re-usable bags. Rigid (hard) plastics, tins, paper, foil and pie trays, cardboard and drink containers can all go in your home recycle bin. Check our recycling information and make sure you know what your local council will and won't collect.
Some supermarkets now offer recycling for soft plastics including shopping bags, pasta and rice bags, lolly and biscuit packets, fruit and vegie bags and cling wrap. For more details see our Plastics page.
Compost and worm farms
Even though food waste is organic and will generally decompose, when it mixes with other waste in landfill it can contribute to the production and release of dangerous gases, like methane, which is harmful to the environment.
Food waste can also easily be recycled into compost. Composted mulch applied to your garden helps capture carbon in the soil, which means you improve the health of your soil and assist water retention.
You can also recycle food waste by turning it into rich fertiliser through a worm farm. You can have a worm farm even if you live in an apartment and don't have much space. Worm liquid and castings (the organic material that has been digested by the worms) are excellent for pot plants or can be given to neighbours with gardens in exchange for fresh vegetables. You can buy worm farm kits that fit under your sink or on your verandah which make it easy if you have limited space.
If you have the space, keeping a few chickens in your backyard is a great way to get back to basics and live a little greener. It's not just their egg-laying capacity that makes chooks great pets; they're also a valuable asset around the garden and can help you reduce waste.
Keeping chickens can help you to:
- get rid of household scraps and reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill
- maintain a regular supply of low-cost, fresh, better tasting, organic eggs
- create a great source of organic fertilizer and natural pest control for your garden
- reap health benefits by eating organically grown produce without the use of harmful chemicals
- feel the satisfaction that comes from being self-sufficient
- enjoy observing your flock—chickens have lots of personality
- educate children about caring for animals and where food comes from—they'll love feeding the hens and collecting the eggs too
- reduce food transport kilometres by growing your own produce.