Food waste and its impact on the Australian environment

Food Australians discard yearly is estimated to be around 7.3 million tonnes, equivalent to approximately 300 kilograms per person.

By Kiran R. Mahale


Food waste is a global issue that poses significant economic and environmental challenges. The effects of food waste in Australia are particularly noteworthy, given the country’s unique ecosystem and delicate balance.

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This article explores the pressing issue of food waste and its profound impact on the Australian environment. An in-depth analysis of the problem reveals that food waste has far-reaching consequences for ecosystems, food security, and climate change. Therefore, addressing the problem of food waste requires a multi-faceted approach that involves public awareness, policy interventions, and technological solutions. We can tackle this issue by working together and creating a more sustainable and prosperous future.

The Scale of the Problem:

Food waste is a pressing issue with significant social, environmental, and economic consequences in Australia. The amount of food Australians discard yearly is estimated to be around 7.3 million tonnes, equivalent to approximately 300 kilograms per person. This waste not only affects our environment but also considerably impacts our economy. Food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and water pollution. It also places a significant burden on landfills, which are already struggling to cope with the existing waste. In addition, the cost of wasted food is estimated to be around $20 billion annually, a substantial economic loss. Therefore, reducing food waste is crucial for a sustainable future, and we must all take responsibility to minimise our waste.

Environmental Impacts:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

Food waste significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and its environmental impact is profound. When food is disposed of in landfills, it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas approximately 25 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Consequently, food waste is crucial to climate change and its mitigation. 

It is vital to adopt sustainable practices to reduce the impact of food waste. One approach is to prevent food waste from occurring in the first place, and this can be achieved through improved food management practices and reducing overproduction. Another strategy is to divert food waste from landfills and instead utilise it in other ways, such as composting or utilising it for animal feed.

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  • Depletion of Natural Resources:

Producing food is a resource-intensive activity that requires a significant amount of water, land, and energy. Unfortunately, when food goes to waste, all these resources also go to waste. This is a pressing issue in many countries, particularly Australia, where water scarcity is a common problem. The wastage of food not only exacerbates the issue of resource scarcity but also poses a serious threat to ecosystems. This is because food production involves using pesticides and fertilisers, which can contaminate the soil and water sources. Additionally, food waste disposal in landfills releases methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Therefore, it is essential to reduce food waste and adopt more sustainable practices to ensure the efficient use of resources and the protection of our environment.

  • Loss of Biodiversity:

The overproduction and waste of food is a severe issue often caused by unsustainable farming practices. These practices can involve the excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides, leading to soil degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. In addition, they can contribute to habitat destruction, which can significantly impact local ecosystems and the survival of various species. Harmful pesticides can substantially threaten the health of both humans and wildlife, as they can cause multiple health problems and even death. Furthermore, the overproduction and waste of food can result in the depletion of natural resources, such as water and land, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment. 

These issues are particularly relevant in Australia due to the country’s unique flora and fauna. Unsustainable farming practices easily disrupt the delicate balance of its ecosystems, which can have long-lasting effects on the environment. Therefore, it is essential to promote sustainable farming practices that can help minimise the negative impact of food production and waste on the environment.

  • Soil Degradation:

When food is wasted, it contains valuable organic matter that can be used. However, when this waste is sent to landfills, it cannot be transformed into nutrient-rich compost and decomposes anaerobically, harming the soil quality. This soil degradation can have serious consequences, including decreased agricultural productivity and worsening food security issues. Therefore, finding sustainable ways to dispose of food waste is essential.


  • Reduce Food Waste at the Source:

By educating consumers and businesses on the impact of food waste, we can take constructive steps towards reducing it. Household food waste can be significantly reduced by simple measures such as meal planning, proper storage, and portion control. Moreover, businesses can play their part by implementing efficient inventory management and distribution systems. Together, we can positively impact the environment and save valuable resources.

  • Food Rescue Programs:

Food waste is a pressing issue that affects the globe. To tackle this problem, initiatives like food banks and rescue organisations are essential in redirecting surplus food to those in need. Not only do these efforts help prevent food waste, but they also provide much-needed assistance to individuals and families facing food insecurity. By donating surplus food, individuals and businesses can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable food system.

  • Composting and Recycling:

Taking steps towards promoting composting and recycling of food waste can significantly impact the environment. By diverting organic matter from landfills, these practices can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Municipalities can play a vital role in this effort by investing in composting facilities and educating residents on proper disposal methods. By doing so, they contribute to a healthier planet and create a more sustainable future for future generations.


Food waste is a significant challenge facing Australia, but we have the power to tackle it head-on. We know that food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and soil degradation, but we also know we can make a difference. We can create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system by raising awareness, implementing effective waste reduction strategies, and supporting food rescue programs.

Together, we can take decisive action to address food waste, and our efforts will be noticed. By reducing waste, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact and preserve the unique and beautiful ecosystems that make Australia so special. So, let’s take action and make a difference. We can create a more sustainable future, starting with addressing food waste.

Contributing Author: Dr Kiran R. Mahale is a Technology-driven focused and enthusiastic biotechnologist and Co-founder and CTO of Vishwa Bio Solutions.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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