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Food is the nourishing material needed by plants and animals to sustain life and enable growth. It is composed of various chemicals such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins and minerals. Our food choices have a major effect on the sustainability of the planet, impacting on our ecological footprint and on the liveability of the communities who produce what we eat.
Food waste is a complex environmental, social and economic problem. In NSW alone, households are throwing away $2.5 billion dollars worth of edible food each year. This amounts to over 800,000 tonnes across the State.
Businesses in NSW send a staggering amount of food waste to landfill each year. In Sydney alone 300,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away. Most of this food could have been sold and eaten.
The problem with food waste going to landfill is that when organic waste (including food waste) breaks down it results in the production of methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
National greenhouse inventory data suggests that landfill contributes two per cent (or ~11MT CO2-e/annum, after gas capture) of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions. For every tonne of food waste not sent to landfill, 0.9 tonnes of CO2-e is saved. That's a saving of almost one for one.
Our food supply chain is responsible for approximately 23 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions – second only to coal fired power stations. This includes direct emissions from agriculture (16 per cent of total national emissions), as well as the emissions attributed to energy, transport, food production, processing and distribution.
In addition, natural resources are used to produce, harvest, transport, process, package, and distribute food products. Water, in particular, is used in vast amounts to grow fruit, vegetables, cereals and grains and to support livestock.
Food waste is not only a big burden on the environment – the 300,000 tonnes of food waste disposed of at Sydney's landfills in 2007–2008 cost business approximately $36 million in disposal fees alone.
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Charles Sturt University
Swinburne University of Technology
Tropical North Queensland TAFE
University of the Sunshine Coast
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Food Sustainability Teaching Resources
Carbon emissions & pricing for the food and agriculture sector
Joint speaker presentation from the Carbon Expo forum 2012 (Australia’s premier, industry-hosted Conference for emissions intensive business and low-carbon economy product & service providers across Australasia).
With speakers -
•Deborah Kerr, Manager, Natural Resource Management, National Farmers Federation
•Jack Holden, Sustainability Strategy Manager, Fonterra Australia
•Olivia Tyler, Group Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility & Vintrepreneur, Treasury Wine Estates