Food waste disgrace: the race to save tonnes of food in NZ from the dump

Kiwis are being urged to be more careful with the food they buy – and throw out. 

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It comes as food rescue charities are rapidly expanding. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes as food rescue charities rapidly grow. One such organisation, KiwiHarvest, is expanding its services in 2021 to reach beyond the city limits. 

The charity is getting busier — 2020 saw an 80 per cent increase in volume on the previous year, with 2.2 million kilograms of food put through the charity. 

Aotearoa produces an estimated 330,000 tonnes of food waste each year – enough to feed the entire population of Northland or Dunedin. 

“It's just a waste when we have a lot of people out there who are starving, even before Covid-19,” said KiwiHarvest’s Bernie Ngaha, who spoke to 1 NEWS as he stacked boxes of food at the organisation’s Auckland warehouse. 

KiwiHarvest received food that would have been sent to the landfill, but was still perfectly good to eat — oversupply, damaged packaging, cancelled orders or food nearing its best before date were all reasons why food might be thrown out by food businesses. 

KiwiHarvest sorted that food, weighed it, and distributed it to charities and other organisations. 

Supermarkets across New Zealand are partnering with food rescue charities across the nation to avoid throwing out unsellable food and trying to find innovative ways to minimise the amount of food thrown out. 

“Around 85 per cent of our total food waste is diverted from the landfill...Supermarkets are businesses — they are in the business of selling food, not wasting it,” said Foodstuff’s Francesca Goodman-Smith. 

“We are working really hard to minimise waste completely...A little bit gets through, but we've made a commitment that by 2025 no food will go to landfills from our supermarkets,” said Countdown’s Kiri Hannifin. 

Other companies are also looking for innovative ways to help businesses and consumers avoid throwing out food. 

The Foodprint app was launched in Auckland last year and allows business such as cafes and restaurants to advertise food it would have normally thrown out but is still fine to eat. That food is sold through the app at a lower price than it would normally retail for.

Founder Michal Garvey said about 300 eateries across Auckland have signed up, with 30,000 users. 

“Food waste is an issue that people are becoming more aware of — I think people generally feel guilty if they throw food away,” she told 1 NEWS. 

“What is growing is the awareness around food waste in the climate change side of things, so people are becoming more aware of the impact it is having on the planet.” 

Households are also being urged to play their part, and more carefully consider what they buy at the supermarket. 

“In New Zealand, the average household wastes three shopping trolleys of food every year, which costs $644,” said Tessa Vincent, of NZ Food Waste Champions. 

She said during Covid-19 lockdowns food waste in homes decreased, but bad habits were returning. 

“People were planning their shopping trips, they were cooking creatively at home, they were using leftovers,” she said. 

“When we came out of lockdown, behaviour kind of returned to how it was before.” 

Vincent said simple things like pre-planning what people bought at the supermarket and making sure to use up what was already in the party will help combat the food waste problem.