The average New Zealand household sends almost 10 times as much food waste to landfill per capita as supermarkets per capita, an award-winning expert working in the field says.
It's estimated that globally one third of all food produced is wasted. New Zealand is one of 193 countries that has ratified the UN's sustainable development goals that include reducing food waste by 50 per cent in the next 10 years.
Francesca Goodman-Smith, who is Foodstuffs' waste minimisation manager, wrote her thesis at the University of Otago on the issue of supermarket food waste. She also volunteered at the food rescue organisation KiwiHarvest which distributes surplus food to those in need, and taught on the university's pioneering food waste course.
She recently won the "change maker" category in the Sustainable Business Awards and was a finalist in the Climate Impact awards.
Goodman-Smith has also designed an award-winning waste minimisation programme across Foodstuffs' 135 stores.
She told RNZ it "made her mouth drop" to see the stark contrast between the need for food and the massive waste that is also going on.
She has done "official dumpster diving" and found that supermarkets had good systems for segregating the waste with about 46 per cent going to animal feeds.
About 15 per cent was sent to people who needed it through food rescue organisations.
Goodman-Smith said there was solid data relating to food waste from supermarkets, households and the hospitality sector in New Zealand.
Households send 29kg per capita per year to landfill, for supermarkets it is 3kg per capita.
"It's not looking about blaming, it's looking at the opportunity."
Ugly is good
She said she wanted to break down the stigma of what food looked like on the outside (such as some bruised apples) and how nutritious it was "and really shift the dial on it doesn't have to look perfect. Overseas, they've recommended [for] ugly fruit and vegetables [to have a specific] section ... [that] is one way that you can do that".
A few supermarkets do that in New Zealand and she would like to see it adopted more.
"Overseas, they recommend that you actually weave imperfect looking produce into normal economy lines, because that's actually normalising that everything doesn't have to look perfect."
Education and pricing would be key to gaining more widespread acceptance, she said.
"That's where a lot of these issues around food waste really stem from - people are programmed to look at something and say: 'That's good and that's bad'."
Goodman-Smith said worldwide 1.3 billion tonnes of food was wasted annually, in New Zealand about 500,000 tonnes of food went to landfill each year.
At Foodstuffs, the waste minimisation programme means each waste stream is measured. The chain's supermarkets are diverting 85 per cent of their food waste away from landfills. Instead the food is repurposed, recycled, or donated. Foodstuffs' target is to send zero food waste to landfill by 2025.
Her main goal for 2021 is honing in on what waste is still being produced, and she would be looking for tech solutions to optimise ordering and checking dates.
"You're refining your processes so much that waste is actually designed out of the system, rather than it just being taken for granted that some waste is going to occur and then you deal with that at the end of it."
Bread should be frozen
Bread was the number one product wasted in the household, she said, and should be kept in the freezer.
Carrots will last 10 times longer if people put them in an airtight container with a paper towel which controls the moisture.
Another tip for longevity of bags of salad leaves was to add the paper towel, she said.
She recommended that people look at the Love Food Hate Waste campaign website for more tips on reducing food waste.
She said Foodstuffs had also signed up for the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration, and as part of that was aiming to have all store packaging reuseable, compostable or recyclable by 2025.