Cold Chain Waste Reduction

Food Waste in Australia and how to fight it

Waste reduction strategies for food manufacturers

Australia has a sophisticated approach to the way we produce, manufacture, distribute and sell food. This makes for a productive and profitable food industry – and yet we still waste billions of dollars of perfectly good food every year. So how can we combat this unnecessary waste? There are a lot of factors at play, but the key to making lasting change to food waste in Australia is education and collaboration.

State of the Nation 2021: Statistics on food waste in Australia

The percentage of food that is wasted in Australia is staggering – take these food waste facts for example:

  • We produce enough food to feed 60 million people in a country with a population of 25 million, yet 7.3 million tonnes per annum is wasted, enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the brim nearly nine times. (Source)
  • At the consumer end, the average food waste per person sits at over 345kg per household every year. This equates to throwing out nearly a kilogram of food every day. (Source)
  • The greenhouse gases emitted from food waste make a significant impact on climate change, producing over 3.5% of Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions. (Source)
  • A recent study of waste in the cold food chain found that 25% of annual fruit and vegetable production, 3.5% of the annual production of meat & seafood, and 1% of dairy products is routinely wasted due to failures in the cold chain. 
  • Despite all this waste, 1 in 5 Australians – over 5 million people – are food insecure. (Source)

So what is being done by industry and by the Australian Government to combat these alarming figures? 

Australia’s national food waste strategy

The Minister for the Environment recently launched Stop Food Waste Australia, an organisation that will play a key role in delivering the National Food Waste Strategy. This strategy aims to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030 by providing guidance and reduction initiatives across the whole food supply chain.

In Australia, there is already a significant amount of work underway to target food waste that is making a difference locally, regionally and nationally. The National Food Waste strategy seeks to leverage these efforts through policy support, business improvements, market development, and encouraging behaviour change. It begins with a National Food Waste Baseline that will track the country’s progress towards our food waste reduction goal.

This multi-faceted approach is designed to help tackle food waste from many angles from primary production to the consumer, however, there is much that industry can do to drive these initiatives forward.

Why cold chain integrity is the key to reducing food waste in Australia

Financial opportunity

Food waste is estimated to cost Australians nearly $4 billion every year at farm gate value. 

However, for every $1 spent by businesses in improving their systems and processes, the median company site has a $14 return on investment. (Source

Addressing issues such as equipment, packaging, labelling, technology, data continuity and training aren’t an expense – they’re an investment in a leaner, more efficient business. 

The environmental cost of food waste 

The Expert Group’s 2019 Cold Food Chain Waste fact sheet states that greenhouse gas emissions from food waste are estimated to be greater than the combined energy and refrigerant emissions from operating the cold food chain (~19 Mt CO2e or more than 3.5% of Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions). 

By implementing relatively simple processes in the cold chain, food manufacturers can work together to make a significant dent in Australia’s CO2 emissions: practices such as improved operation and integrity of cold chains, better food handling and more transparent data sharing will all help to bring this figure down. 

The same is true for all links in the cold chain, not just food manufacturers: distributors, transporters, storage facilities and retailers can all play a part in tightening up procedures and practices to help bring down CO2 emissions and waste in general. 

The triple bottom line

For larger organisations and publicly listed companies, a strong commitment to the triple bottom line is critical to satisfying investors, stakeholders and tier 1 customers. This is necessary for small to medium food manufacturers too, as the 3-pronged approach to a successful, sustainable and profitable business becomes the norm in Australia. 

Financial, environmental and social outcomes are more important than ever, and a commitment to reduce food waste straddles all three camps. 

Financial savings from waste reduction are self-explanatory; and environmental savings can be gained from emissions, water and energy reduction when waste management strategies are firmed up and processes are streamlined. 

And, reducing food waste overlaps the social aspect too, as companies work to prove that they care about equal access to fresh food and social equality. 

There are many grassroots organisations helping to improve access to fresh produce whilst keeping certain products out of the waste stream. This is demonstrated by companies such as OzHarvest who work with food retailers to keep perfectly edible food out of landfill.

However, rescue and recovery aren’t on top of the pile when it comes to waste reduction strategies for food waste in Australia – eliminating waste altogether is the ultimate goal. 

Working to eliminate waste at the manufacturing or processing stage doesn’t just save money. It signals a respect and appreciation of the value of food and indicates to stakeholders that your company is serious about food security and social parity.

Education and training leads to better staff retention

Investing in your team by providing them with opportunities to expand their skill set leads to higher rates of employee satisfaction. Workers that are acknowledged, appreciated and offered opportunities to grow with professional development courses and targeted training are much more likely to report higher satisfaction in their role. 

This, in turn, leads to better staff retention and reduced turnover, resulting in a reduction in HR and administrative processes (and providing an indirect cost saving stemming from your food waste reduction strategy). 

Maintaining a happy, engaged workforce is not only easier for your business, but it also makes better financial sense when you consider the time and effort required to recruit and onboard new staff. 

If your staff attrition rate is higher than you’d like, consider industry-specific and task-based learning opportunities to help boost staff engagement. Training your team in the proper use of thermometers in cold chain management, for example, is a highly targeted approach to building practical skills, which also offers a direct benefit to your bottom line. 

Improve your cold chain compliance to reduce waste

Ultimately, waste reduction for food manufacturers can be tackled from a number of different angles. Water-tight processes, transparent documentation and data, and a team that understands its role in fighting food waste are the building blocks of a lean and efficient food processing business. 

One of the simplest and most achievable things you can do right now is to invest in quality staff training to ensure your team is properly trained in how to maintain a robust and efficient cold chain. 

Education is the key to reducing waste.

We offer custom course design packages, tailoring detailed and highly specific courses to your individual business. If customised training courses could be of benefit to your team, get in touch with our head trainer Brett Meads.