From the local pizza joint to Australia’s top restaurants - what’s plated up is not always wanted.
Restaurants and cafes around Australia will be asked to examine how much food they fritter away, and share this with RMIT researchers who are piloting an innovative project called Watch My Waste to measure food waste in the hospitality sector.
Watch My Waste co-founder and researcher Dianne McGrath said almost a quarter of all food bought for restaurants ends up in the bin.
“In Britain, that represents more than £10,652 ($19,000AUD) worth of food squandered each year per eatery, which is wasted money to the business and an on-going environmental disaster,’’ McGrath said.
“Diners contribute to that by leaving nearly a third of the food on their plate.”
This data is unknown in Australia.
“Domestically, the average householder in Australia throws out about 20 per cent of the food they buy,’’ McGrath said.
“That is equivalent to one in every five bags of groceries - or $1,036 per household annually.
“More than 5.25 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is generated by food waste in landfill every year in Australia, which is as much greenhouse gas production as the Australian iron and steel manufacturing industries combined,’’ she said.
The Watch My Waste national research project will measure the cost and amount of foods being binned and aims to identify why the waste occurs.
Starting earlier this year, the project is purpose-designed to be quick and easy for chefs and kitchen staff to undertake to minimise the impact on busy kitchens.
“Participating businesses will measure their food waste with an easy-to-use app on their smartphone or device, and will undertake surveys to uncover the factors behind food waste creation.’’
The rewards for eateries that participate are potentially revolutionary, McGrath said.
“It is the first time in Australia a project of this type has been undertaken and it will provide the first real idea of the extent of food wastage within the industry.
“As a result of their participation, businesses will be able to gauge how much food is wasted in their kitchen as well as front of house, and across the board in the industry generally, and we also expect to gain an understanding of why food waste may be happening.
“The findings of our research are likely to help eateries streamline their food production and presentation to minimise waste, which will mean financial savings and will help reduce the businesses’ negative environmental impact.’’
McGrath, from RMIT’s School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, said food wastage occurred at home as well as in restaurants and cafes.
“People tend to throw out food that has passed their use by dates or spoiled in addition to perfectly edible food that is just somehow ‘broken’.
“And then there is waste in cooking and food preparation with trimming, peeling and burning meals, as well as what we leave on our plates.
“Throwing out just one kilogram of cooked rice equates to throwing out 1550 litres of water used to produce it.
“We hope that the findings from this research will help eateries and also influence consumers to change their food habits in their own kitchens.’’
Hospitality and food businesses around Australia are invited to join the unique study.
They need diners who eat in, and staff who are able to participate in the research, just once a week at most, for three months. They also require a smartphone or smart device to download the app. Businesses can sign up at www.watchmywaste.com.au/research-registration.
All participants will receive a report of their food waste data and how it compares to the rest of Australia at the end of the research project.