Panic buying, food delivery spurs waste

Australians are wasting more food during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely thanks to panic buying and food delivery services.

The annual bill for the country’s wasteful food choices skyrocketed to $10.3 billion after the coronavirus reached our shores, according to Rabobank’s 2020 Food Waste Report.

That is an all-time annual high of $1,043 per household.

Before the pandemic, Australians were tracking towards $8.64 billion in food waste, costing the average household about $170 less.

“It’s to be expected that food waste has been de-prioritised by Australians during this stressful year when our attention has been focused on other urgent issues,” Rabobank’s Glenn Wealands said in a statement on Monday.

“(But) the average household is now wasting nearly 13 per cent of the groceries they buy and also spending more on food delivery and self-prepare food services.”

More than 2000 Australians were surveyed in March and again in September, with food waste increasing significantly over that period.

NSW, Queensland and Tasmania were the worst performers according to the report, with every other state reducing their waste compared to 2019.

NSW performed the worst, with 14 per cent of food being thrown out, an increase of 2.7 per cent on early 2020.

Almost half of the survey respondents said their food waste had increased because they had spent more time cooking, while 37 per cent said they had been experimenting with recipes.

“We’ve also seen almost 10 per cent of households increasing their spend on food to stockpile items in case supply ran out during lockdown,” Mr Wealands said.

An increase in the number of people using food delivery services also drove increased waste, the report found.

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed used delivery services, with more than a third of those people admitting they ordered food at least once a week.

Australians have also increasingly turned to self-prepare meal-kit services, with patronage up eight per cent to 36 per cent.

Those most likely to use food delivery or meal kit services waste over double the amount of food than those who don’t, the survey found.

“Be mindful that unless you’re using these services wisely it’s bad for your wallet and bad for reducing food waste,” Mr Wealands said.

Me Wealands said Australians could reduce their waste by using excess food in their pantry and freezer, making a weekly meal plan and factoring in a night off for takeaway each week.

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