Food Waste in Australia

And how supermarkets profit from it

Australia wastes 7.6m tonnes of food each year, costing households $19.3 billion.

Based on industry average profit margins, food retailers make $1.2 billion profit from this waste.

This gives the major supermarkets a strong incentive to resist policy changes that would reduce food waste, such as reform of best-before labels.

Opinion polling for this report shows that a clear majority of Australians support various regulatory reforms to reduce food waste—including, notably, overwhelming support (78%) for reforming use-by and best-before date labelling and 72% support for relaxed cosmetic standards. While there is clear support for regulatory changes, 81% of respondents also see reducing food waste as at least partly the responsibility of individual consumers.

This emphasis on individual responsibility will sound familiar to observers of many policy debates: the way in which the responsibility for addressing systemic problems is either allowed to fall on, or actively re-routed onto, individuals and their actions, rather than on the implementation of systemic change by governments and industry. This will need to change if Australia’s food waste targets are to be met.

Full report