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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.

Source: NSWEPA 

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

Download presentation.

Global Change Institute (UQ) - Food Security and Land Use

By 2050, the world’s agriculture will need to increase food production by 70 percent to feed a projected 9 billion people. That’s in the face of climate change, water shortages and increased competition for arable land.

The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute features the following projects and resources focussing on food security and land use issues - 

“Emerging Issues in Global Food Security”: A series of policy briefs

To meet the very real needs of food security, the Global Change Institute partnered with the Crawford Fund, the Doyle Foundation and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture to...

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Governing food security in Australia in an era of climate change

We do not live in a food secure world. Globally, there are over one billion people who are in chronic hunger and, by 2050, the world population will have grown from the current 6.8 billion...

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Food from thought, bread from stones

Adjunct Professor of the Global Change Institute, Gabrielle Persley has authored a series of briefs that draw attention to critical trends in agriculture and food security through...

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Climate Roundtables

Southeast Queensland (SEQ) is the fastest growing region in Australia, with rapidly increasing population, demand for water and power and changing patterns of land use.  SEQ is likely...

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NSW EPA Food Waste Avoidance in Business Case Studies

Businesses in NSW are using a range of measures to avoid and manage food waste in their operations. The results? An enhanced environmental reputation, more efficient practices and increased profits.

The NSW EPA provides case studies on how businesses are avoiding and managing food waste. Cases include: 

Woolworths targets zero food waste to landfill

OzHarvest collects surplus food to feed those in need

Petersham Bowling Club's menu changes to avoid food waste

Molly Coddle Café saves two tonnes of food waste from landfill

Australian apple brand turns waste fruit into premium cider