We’ve all heard about disposable plastic waste and how big companies are phasing out single-use plastic bags but are they the only problems with waste we’re facing in Australia?
At Cannings we are always trying to reduce our impact, be it through waste, carbon footprint or emissions, that’s why 4 years ago we went Carbon Neutral, purchasing only renewable energy for our stores (through hydro and wind), and offsetting our unavoidable impacts like refrigerants, through a Carbon Offset re-forestation scheme. We buy electricity from Tassie Hydro, use recycled FSC approved brown paper bags and switched to sugar cane pulp trays. As for all the cardboard that comes through our stores, we are careful to always send it for recycling, but plastic can be a hard one because food and meat industry regulations in Victoria have very demanding policies for food hygiene, and with raw meat products the potential for harmful bacteria to grow in improperly controlled environments means that certain plastics are required for certain storage methods. Now you can find in any of our 6 stores, our reusable bags – our premium cooler bags and our tote bags made out of 100% cotton.
Let’s take a look at what’s going with waste in general in Australia. Looking at numbers taken from The Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian creates over 2,000kgs of waste each year. That’s 2 ton of matter that can be neither re-used or recycled. The vast majority of this refuse ends up in landfill – which even by modern standards, is essentially a hole in the ground!
If the waste ends up in landfill, most likely it will end up in the oceans and from there the results get more and more depressing. As we speak, a ‘trash island’ twice the size of Texas casts a long shadow across the Pacific. We find clear evidence of human waste in our sea-life too – most of the wild-caught fish we consume will have eaten plastic at least once in their lifetime. In 2010, the world’s ~193 countries combined, generated 275 million metric tons of plastic waste, 5 to 13 million metric tons of plastic made it to our oceans that year. By 2025, if we continue on this apocalyptic trajectory, the annual cumulative output of plastic into the world’s oceans will be around 155 million metric tons.
There are many ways to start making our homes plastic-free, much like what we are trying to do at Cannings by banning the single-use plastic carry bag, you can find a lot of tips around the web.
Now if we examine one type of anthropogenic waste in particular, food waste, the numbers will amaze you. Around $600 worth of food is wasted per household every year – that’s like putting $11.54 in the bin each week. Food waste is doubly bad because most of it isn’t composted, instead of ending up in landfill where the break-down conditions mean it won’t turn back into the soil for thousands of years. Between now and 2040, humans will consume as much as all the food consumed since we first stood on two legs. Isn’t that scary?
On a national level, food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $20 billion each year. Australian consumers throw away around 3.1 million tonnes of edible food a year, that’s about 8 billion dollars. Each household spends $1,266 on general goods (including food waste) purchased but were never used. What would you do with that amount of money? Maybe pay some bills?
Unsurprisingly, the lowest wasters are the elderly. Maybe it’s because they’ve lived through some seriously tough times – wars and depression – and have some idea of what it is to be economical with their purchases. These guys may have something we could learn from.
The highest wasters are those with young couples (where convenience and disposability are understandably alluring), families that earn more than $100,000 a year and families with children.
Also worth a mention is the other 2.2 million tonnes of waste generated by the commercial and industrial sectors, which seems like an insurmountable number beyond our control – but this is where conscious shopping and consumer advocacy can really have an impact. That’s why we are trying to get involved in reducing the waste generated by our stores. The first step is getting rid of single-use plastic carry bags and styrofoam trays, we even encourage our customers to bring their own containers as we are more than happy to use them.
We can do so many things to produce less food waste. We’re going to help you to make your shopping experiences less wasteful, especially at Cannings.
So what can YOU do to reduce food waste?
This boils down to some pretty basic things, things that can help you improve your eating habits, and save some money at the same time:
- Check the fridge before you shop and only buy what you need.
- Write a shopping list and stick to it. Resist the IMPULSE BUY! (Unless Cannings is running a particularly good special;))
- Plan your meals out for the week. It saves time, money and reduces food waste.
- Check date labels and know the difference between:
- ‘Use by’- the food has to go.
- ‘Best before’- the food is at its best and can be eaten after this date as long as it has been stored correctly.
- Use leftovers for lunches and be creative with remaining ingredients for your next meal.
- Buy from retailers that allow you to choose quantities (like butchers, grocers and bulk food stores)
- Ask for smaller portions or a ‘doggy bag’ when eating out.
There’s clearly a lot of things we need to change; – industries and households alike, but if we are able to take that first step of recognising the problem and shifting our attitudes towards being more mindful and economical, we may be able to change our keystone habits before we harm the planet beyond repair.