Food waste in Australia

Food waste is an alarmingly voluminous problem worldwide whose effects can be mistakenly be downplayed. In a recent report, the National Food Waste Baseline, it was shown that Australia generates a colossal 7.3 billion kilograms of food waste per annum – that equates to almost 1kg wasted by each individual every day.

So where does it all come from? Two of the most extensive sectors are our farms and food manufacturers but the estimated most substantial contributors are our homes, discarding more than 1/3rd of all the food waste in Australia. More shockingly, the FAO estimates that in fact 1/3rd of all food produced globally is lost or discarded. It’s like consuming breakfast and lunch but throwing dinner in the bin, every day.

It is convenient to assume that food, being an easily biodegradable substance, will simply dissolve, evaporate and eventually disappear, leaving no trace of its former self. Disconcertingly, however, this is not so. As the food deliquesces it exudes considerable measures of greenhouse gasses, producing approximately 2kg of these environmentally harmful agents per kilo of food wasted. In more relatable terms, the environmental impact of 1 tonne of food waste is similar to that of the emissions from a car over a whole year. Put in context, we see that Australia’s annual food waste production is equivalent to running over 5,000,000 cars.

Now that we have established an image of the problem, we can consider the solutions. In Australia the ubiquitous approach is composting which is a low-energy process that reduces the environmental damage caused by food waste and creates beneficial soil additives which can contribute to a more circular economy. More wide-spread overseas but still present here, Anaerobic Digestion can offer an alternative mechanism for food waste recycling. The digestive process, propelled by beneficial bacteria, generates bio-gas which can be burned directly as a fuel source or converted into electricity.

At Karma3 we have developed a new approach: insect based bio-conversion of food waste. Engaging the formidable hunger of black soldier fly larvae, our technology transforms food waste into a sustainable protein source for animal feed. Just how sustainable? Research groups have illustrated that per kilogram of food waste, these systems can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a mere 0.035kg – a reduction of over 98% compared to disposal to landfill.

Our facilities are deployable locally to tackle problems at their source and can process a comprehensive variety of food waste streams making them a constructive addition to the current integrative approach to food waste management. With a composition similar to fishmeal, our insect protein finds worth in the diets of many monogastric animals and every year exciting and novel research is demonstrating the potential health benefits of this protein.

With an estimated 50% of all food waste generated in Australia being discarded to landfill, we have a substantial but not insurmountable challenge to solve before we can earn our credentials as a world leader in sustainable food production. At Karma3 we endeavour to diversify the world’s approach to food waste recycling and help to secure a greener future for generations to come.

Martin Pike