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Byron Shire
December 6, 2023

Food waste up amid pandemic hoarding

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Aussie households are wasting more food as a result of the pandemic according to Rabobank’s 2020 Food Waste Report.

Food waste has been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The newly released research found that the average food wasted by households jumped to 12.7% from 11.1% pre-pandemic, amounting to an estimated $10.3 billion worth of wasted food this year.

Glenn Waelands, head of client experience at Rabobank Australia, says that the results are likely a result of COVID-19 related hoarding and panic buying amongst other changes in consumer behaviour.

‘We believe that of the 12.7% of food being wasted almost 2% of that can be contributed to the hoarding we saw at the start of the pandemic.’

The report, now in its third year took a sample of 2,395 Australians weighted to match the demographic build-up of the country. Whilst this year’s results were considerable, it was not the first time a substantial increase in food wastage was observed.

Between 2018 and 2019 food wastage jumped 1.5%, an increase that Glenn Waelands says can most likely be attributed to the proliferation of food delivery services for take-away food as well as groceries.

‘2019 was the first year that we really saw the emergence of these new food delivery services that made it easy for people to order in bulk to their doorstep creating a scenario where it is much easier to overbuy.’

The report found a 7% increase in the number of participants that used food delivery services as a direct result of the pandemic.

Crucially, the research did not consider food wastage from out-of-home dining such as restaurants which would have inevitably declined at the height of the pandemic restrictions.

One study by RMIT University predicted that almost 40% of food purchased for food stock by restaurants and cafes ended up in dumpsters.

Nevertheless, food wastage continues to be a major problem for Australia and this report serves to further highlight the long battle ahead if we are to create a more efficient and sustainable society.

The Australian government predicts that food wastage costs the economy $20 billion annually, accounting for almost 5% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. In response to this, the government has devised the National Food Waste Strategy that looks to halve Australia’s food wastage in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.


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