The Food Audit
I conducted my Organic Waste Audit on Thursday the 30th of March. Because I had uni classes to attend, I spent the day in the city and ate from food courts. At the conclusion of the 24-hour period, I had not generated much organic waste aside from a nectarine core and some residual oil left over on a plate. I began to realise that because I had eaten at commercial food outlets, the food preparation process had been rendered invisible to me. I had not accounted for the organic waste generated in the preparation of my meal (eg. carrot peels, chicken bones, onion cores and shallot roots) because I hadn’t been able to see it.
It was then that I realized how difficult it can be for an individual to be sustainable within a wasteful system.
I began to question the extent of my responsibility for my organic food waste. Is it the role of the consumer to ensure the waste products of their prepared meal are managed sustainably? Is the consumer liable for the kitchen’s operations if they aren’t transparent? Does the kitchen take on a ‘duty of care’ for the consumer’s food, making them responsible? Furthermore, are the kitchen employees at fault for operating in a system that provides no sustainable disposal methods?
Angie Hobbs (Professor of Public Understanding in Philosophy) was critical of the role of the consumer, stating in an article:
“…consumers need to take a hard look at their own individual responsibilities… and consider what they put in their mouths. We need to become more aware of which processing techniques result in the most wastage and buy such foods more sparingly. Many of us also find it easier to waste food because of our distance from food production and wasted food may also often pile up out of sight” (Hobbs 2013).
An inclusive view was put forward in the article ‘A Participatory Approach to Minimizing Food Waste in the Food Industry—A Manual for Managers’. It noted that while
“…politicians and customers have called on the food industry to accept social responsibility for its impact on customers, society, and the environment”, the most effective solution to organic food waste is a participatory concept “…that integrates employees, customers, and other relevant stakeholders into the process… to counteract food waste” (Strotmann etal. 2017).
These statements support the observation that the ‘professionalism’ of modern food service contributes to consumer misperceptions of their food waste. I agree that the consumer should assume responsibility for their sustainability, but also that it is unfair to rest full accountability on one party. Collaboration between consumers and the business is necessary to create systemic change that is inclusive, transparent, and effective at properly managing organic waste.
The ingredients in the canapés served at the Book Launch were sourced from within NSW. The canapés were served directly into people’s hands, drink glasses were refilled and plastic straws were issued instead of plastic ones. Finger-food platters lacked cutlery or disposable eating implements; encouraging people to use their hands to interact with the platter instead. These measures were implemented so that the inevitable waste produced could be minimized as much as possible (Australian Government 2012). Conversely, however, patrons were not allowed to see behind-the-scenes where food was coming and going, suggesting that the caterer’s disposal methods may not have been as sustainable as the food itself.
Australian Government 2012, Reducing Waste, Canberra, viewed 4 April 2017, <http://yourenergysavings.gov.au/waste/reducing-recycling/reducing-waste >.
Hobbs, Angie. 2013, ‘Food Waste: How Much of It Is Consumer Responsibility?’, theguardian, vol. 1, viewed 1 April 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/food-waste-consumer-responsibility>.
Strotmann, C., Gobel, C., Friedrich, S., Kreyenschmidt, J., Ritter, G., &Teitscheid, P. 2016, ‘A Participatory Approach to Minimising Food Waste in the Food Industry – A Manual for Managers’, MDPI, vol. 1, viewed 2 April 2017, <www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/9/1/66/pdf>.