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Waste not, want not: Aotearoa’s food waste problem

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Although up to 49% of  New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions come from farming, food wastage is also a major contributor, thought to be up to 10%. When uneaten food decomposes without oxygen it produces methane, a greenhouse gas.

In an episode of Footprint: Business Sustainability, a new podcast from Newstalk ZB, app developer Michal Garvey and Professor Hugh Campbell from Otago University discussed the shocking amount of food wastage in New Zealand saying it is not uncommon for up to 75% of some foods to be thrown out including pre-bagged salad and bread.

Campbell is a professor of Sociology specialising in food, agriculture and sustainability and says the one thing people could do as consumers is to get their heads around how much we waste food: “It is the single easiest area where we can make satisfying interventions that are good for our wallets and good for the planet.”

Michal Garvey believes greenhouse gas emissions caused by food waste is a problem New Zealand shouldn’t really have.

“We throw away about a third of the food that is produced for human consumption,” she says. “It accounts for up to 10 per cent of emissions. It is a massive problem; it is also a waste of resources.

“When you have six to eight per cent of the (world) population experiencing food insecurity, yet we’re throwing away so much food, there are obviously social problems with it as well. It’s a huge and complex issue.”

Garvey has developed an app, Foodprint, to tackle food waste in the hospitality sector by allowing cafes, restaurants and supermarkets to sell surplus or imperfect food at a discount to customers on the app.

Garvey first encountered apps such as these while studying web development in Sweden and decided to develop her own when she returned to Aotearoa.  In the two years since it was set up, 40,000 customers have signed up and they estimate the equivalent of 50,000kg of carbon dioxide has been saved.

“All kinds of food can be found on Foodprint,” she says. “You can get anything from a whole cake to a salad, sandwich, sushi – anything you can buy at your local café. I focus on the hospitality industry because for them putting food in the bin is throwing away money.

“When you think about the climate crisis or the contribution of food waste specifically, sometimes it can be quite hard to know how to act. One of the things I really love the most about it (the app) is that we provide a really simple way for people to be able to rescue food and reduce the impact on the planet.”

Garvey says the app is able to measure the amount of carbon saved by each item. “When eateries are listing on the app they put in an approximate weight and we have a calculation widely accepted in New Zealand that can tell you how much equivalent gas is saved. We track that for the customers and do the same for the eateries.”

Garvey says discounts start from 30 per cent and Foodprint retains a percentage of each item sold. Although not yet profitable she says the app has just hit 40,000 registered customers and believes they will be in profit in the near future.

Original story published on NZ Herald.

 

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