A full house of APPMA members gathered for a dinner event in Brisbane on 13 November to hear Associate Professor Karli Verghese, who is the Reduce Program Leader on the Fight Food Waste CRC, outline the challenges and drivers for change in addressing Australia's food waste issue.
In an interesting and enlightening presentation, Karli Verghese gave the audience an overview of what the CRC is about, why preventing food waste is important, and the 10-year journey mapped out ahead for the CRC.
To set the scene from a global perspective, Verghese cited food waste statistics that show that $1.6 trillion of food is lost or wasted across the global food supply chain - from farm to fork. Developed countries, with an estimated one billion people, account for 56% of that figure, with most of that wastage at retail and consumer level. The remaining 44% comes from developing countries with a total popluation of six billion people, the losses are mostly on farm or post harvest in distribution.
"There are different challenges and reasons why loss is occurring, be it cold chain integrity, storage, processing, buying too much... you only need to think of your own fridge to see how much food is wasted..."
In Australia, she says, it's estimated that about $18-20bn of food is lost ... but nearly half of that is happening in our own households. Statistics show one in four shopping bags per week end up in the bin, and then landfill, only to generate methane and create adverse environmental impacts.
Verghese related that in 2017 there was a lot of momentum around the food waste issue in Australia because Government committed to the UN goal of 12.3, to halve food waste by 2030, and to be able to do that they also had to develop a national food waste strategy.
Verghese went on to outline the CRC's three research programmes: Reduce, Transform and Engage. She noted that as a researcher and teacher in Industrial Design at RMIT University in Melbourne, she spends around half her time engaged in her role as research lead of the Reduce program, which she says "all about how we reduce food waste in the supply chain". The Transform program involves looking at ways of changing processes in the supply chain to prevent waste, and redirect unused food to create value-added products; while the Engage program involves not only engaging industry but also increasing consumer awarenesss of the problem and getting buy-in from the consumer to change waste-producing behaviours.
One of the key overall objectives is preventing food going to landfill, and redirecting it to support important organisations like Foodbank who are helping to feed food insecure Australians. (APPMA is a supporter of both the CRC and FoodBank.)
Acknowledging the APPMA's support of the CRC, Verghese concluded that this is just the beginning of a ten-year and hopefully successful journey in changing the way we do things in the food industry, and encouraged members to become involved in projects that will help drive change.