Our next major project is on food rescue, food loss and food waste. We’re kicking off our project to understand the nature and extent of this problem in Aotearoa New Zealand and explore evidence-based solutions to reduce food waste across the food supply chain.

As usual, our mahi will be guided and informed by experts and stakeholders throughout the motu, and we’ve had an excellent response to our call for interest with over 150 names already received. To those who have offered their support, thank you for your enthusiasm, we look forward to working with you. The more the merrier – so if you’d like to be on the reference group or want to nominate someone you think we should contact, please reach out by emailing info@pmcsa.ac.nz. We are also keen to place the work in context, so are interested in hearing from a wide range of stakeholders, many of whom are already doing great work in the field. Let us know who we should talk to.

This is a wicked problem with social, economic, and environmental dimensions, and we hope to cover these aspects in a series of reports over the next year or so. As a major exporting nation, it’s hard to comprehend that a reported 20% of children live in households where food runs out. Wasted food represents a missed opportunity to achieve food security for all New Zealanders.

New Zealand households produce an estimated 300,000 tonnes of food waste for kerbside collection every year, amounting to an average of $644 in uneaten food per household in 2018. And food isn’t just wasted by consumers: food waste occurs in supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and other parts of the retail and food service sectors, not to mention the largely unquantified food losses that occur during food production, processing, manufacturing, and transport. We will be seeking to learn what data we have and what data we need to enable these losses to be understood and reduced.

In addition, wasting food means wasting the resources that went into its production and makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions throughout the food lifecycle and during decomposition. Based on a 2011 assessment of global food loss and waste volumes, if global food loss and waste was a country it would be the third largest CO2 emitter. In Aotearoa in 2020, emissions from the waste sector as a whole accounted for 4.1% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling food waste therefore directly contributes to climate change mitigation.

And of course, food waste presents an economic cost to food producers, retailers and consumers. There are also lost opportunities to generate value from leftover food that is not safe for human consumption, so we will also explore how to ensure that these waste streams can be safely channelled into animal feed or harnessed for other uses – be that compost or manufacture of other valuable products. While keeping food in the food supply chain is best case scenario, solutions at the bottom of the food waste hierarchy offer the potential to offset the environmental and economic costs of wasted food.

We are lucky enough to have a wealth of evidence from overseas and in Aotearoa New Zealand to support our work, including a 2019 evidence synthesis prepared for Parliament’s Environment Committee. We aim to build on this mahi and link closely to existing best practice initiatives in our communities and across central and local government. If you are working on a food waste project that you think we should know about, we’d love to connect.

We’ll post new content to our website as things unfold, so stay tuned!

Ehara i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini

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