It may be one of the most important food documentaries ever made. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste is a global call to action; a rigorous examination of the harrowing extent of what is wasted and why.
Everybody’s favourite rockstar chef, Anthony Bourdain, is joined by a long list of other chefs, food journalists, and activists to paint a picture of a food world gone mad. A world that doesn’t have to be this way.
Here’s a taste of what to expect, and how we Aussies can help tackle the problem.
A dire state of affairs
Food production is one of the bigggest contributors to deforestation, water extraction and biodiversity loss. Wasted! takes us from the farm, to the supermarket, to the restaurant and into the home. At all levels, a gobsmacking volume of food is not only unnecessarily wasted, but almost all of that ends up in landfill.
When landfill-scrapped food decomposes, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Whether or not you're concerned that this contributes to global warming, you can’t argue against the fact that almost all of this waste could be put to good use.
Food waste shouldn’t even be a thing
The practical uses for food waste are many – and easily achievable. Most obviously, excess food can help feed the poor and homeless in rich countries, and entire populations of developing countries. Secondly, it can go towards feeding livestock, drastically reducing farming costs and contributing to further sustainable food production.
Thirdly, food waste can be converted into renewable energy. Finally, it can easily go towards the creation of nutrient-packed soil, or as we know it, compost.
Waste is a much broader concept than you think
When we think of food waste, chances are we think of the stuff that’s left on our plates, or expired items in our fridges. That is only one aspect of the problem.
The agricultural industry is fuelled by the market climate and consumer demand, both of which leave a ridiculous amount of edible food on the scrapheap. The cauliflower plant, for example, is made up of 40% actual cauliflower and 60% leaf and stem – the latter is left to rot despite being just as, if not more tasty than the bits most of us eat. Too many grown fruits and vegetables suffer a similar fate.
Dan Barber, an American chef famous for overhauling the concept of farm-to-table dining (his Michelin-starred restaurant Blue Hill Stone Barns is situated on an actual farm) by cultivating and striving to make use of every aspect of every edible part, just as many chefs do with a chicken or a lamb.
And don’t get us started on supermarkets. After you watch this doco, you’ll never again see them (or expiry dates) in the same way.
Please, tell us these statistics aren’t true!
If you think Australia isn’t guilty of such wasteful practices, think again. Estimates say food waste costs our economy roughly $20 billion per year. Yes, BILLION. It's equal to four million tons, or enough food to fill 8,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
An astonishing 35 per cent of an Aussie household’s food, on average, as well as 1-in-5 full shopping bags, ends up in the red-lidded bin for landfill. Considering that in 2016, studies showed that up to 3 million Australians lived in poverty, these statistics are unacceptable at best, and at worst, criminal.
How can Australians make a difference?
Kylie Kwong, one of Australia's most sustainably minded chefs, has made personal efforts to curb food waste. Her restaurant only serves organic or biodynamically grown food and booze. Kylie uses every bit of every ingredient in her cooking – even using the scraps of vegetables and animals to create stock.
Her advice to Australians is to plan food shopping so that you only buy what you need. She recommends buying the freshest food available and, said wisely with a smile, never to go shopping when you’re hungry, as it only leads to unnecessary purchases. You know (chocolate) exactly (chips) what we mean (ice cream).
Learn more in Wasted! The Story of Food Waste this Sunday, March 25, on SBS at 8:30pm. Or watch it later at SBS On Demand.