Understanding our individual role within the larger problem of waste management in Australia is crucial in implementing a lasting and worthwhile change. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that were very conscious of the environment, reusing items & recycling when possible. Until now, I never really thought about the impact of organic waste on a large scale, with 6.63Mt from a total of 14Mt of organic waste ending up in landfill in 2010-11. (National Organic Waste Profile, 2013)
In conducting my own organic waste audit, I saw much of the waste being used in other ways. The diagram below shows the outcomes of my organic waste for the day.
As a result of analysing my organic waste, I noticed there was less than I expected, as I eat a diet rich in fresh food. I was confused by this until I realised that this was a result of buying mostly pre-packaged food.
Shown above is a product I buy frequently from Coles. As the vegetables are already pre-cut and pre-washed, there is no necessary preparation required. This convenience for the customer however, also removes them from the process of disposing of the organic waste. To make these packs, the vegetables must be washed (producing water waste,) and the scraps from the zucchini, capsicum and carrots must be disposed of (organic waste.)
Turner highlighted the problem with this removed system of food processing in her essay. In order for individuals to see themselves as important, and capable of producing change they must see themselves as part of a larger system. Above is my audit of one pack of strawberries.
“how the interconnectedness, bodily embeddedness and greater ecological awareness encouraged by engagement with food waste can be capitalised on and extended to people with no history or experience in managing their own food waste” (Turner, 2014)
Another issue is the plastic packaging that these pre-prepared goods are packed in. In 2015, a petition was conducted to call supermarkets accountable for the amount of unnecessary packaging used on fresh foods. (Law, 2015) Panelists on the video linked discuss the irony of organic food packed in plastic, but also the waste associated with customers who are unable to choose the amount of food they need (and will use) due to pre-packaged, multi-packs.
The EPA conducted an analysis on supermarket waste in 2015 and found plastic wrapping constituted an average of one tonne per supermarket, per year. (Cormack, 2017) Cormack’s video on this page also depicts that consumers may not be given the choice of unpackaged goods.
Turner’s reference to FoodWise is again indicative of the importance of understanding the cycle of waste production and processing. The website contains not only facts and information, but interactive videos for adults and children. This is important in creating individuals who process their waste effectively but also buy more sustainably.
Understanding is key to change and therefore making the entire process of food production, consumption, and waste management would create a beneficial change. At the ISF book launch, the menu was indicative of this understanding and consideration to sustainability. As the food was locally sourced and vegan, waste via transportation and production was reduced.
Cormack, L. 2017, ‘Australian supermarkets lagging on efforts to reduce plastic packaging’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 4 April, <http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/australian-supermarkets-lagging-on-efforts-to-reduce-plastic-packaging-20170403-gvcwop.html>.
Foodwise 2017, Do Something, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/foodwise-articles/composting-2/>.
GroceryCop 2017, Coles Fresh Australian Vegetable Stir Fry Mix Prepacked 350g, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.grocerycop.com.au/products/26825/coles-fresh-australian-vegetable-stir-fry-mix-prepacked-350g>.
Law, J. 2015, ‘Customers up in arms about excessive packaging’, news.com.au, viewed 4 April, <http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/customers-up-in-arms-about-excessive-packaging/news-story/21863691c4bf979489bdafd3d32a2d21>.
National organic waste profile 2013, Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/nwp/reporting/organic-waste>.
Organic Waste 2017, EPA, viewed 4 April 2017, <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/waste/organic-waste.htm>.
Ritchie, M. 2016, ‘State of Waste 2016 – current and future Australian trends’, MRA Consulting Group, viewed 1 April <https://blog.mraconsulting.com.au/2016/04/20/state-of-waste-2016-current-and-future-australian-trends/>.
Turner, B. 2014, ‘Food waste, intimacy and compost: The stirrings of a new ecology?’, vol. 11, no. 1, <http://scan.net.au/scn/journal/vol11number1/Bethaney-Turner.html>.