Our research, Think-pieces

Food Waste – a sticky problem with a sticker solution


BWA’s Mark Boulet recently began an article in The Conversation with the simple shocking statistic that globally, we waste around one third of the food we produce.  As he says, “It’s like buying three bags of groceries at the supermarket then throwing one away as you leave.”  It’s no coincidence that the article came out on September 29, the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.  With radio stations all over the country asking Mark for comments (you can listen to ABC Perth here and ABC Sydney here), it seems food waste is a topic we all know – or think we know – something about.


And we’re not talking about industrial or commercial waste – it’s in our homes.  Food waste is one area where individual behaviours can make a big difference, saving ourselves money, resources and reducing greenhouse gases at the same time.  If we can tweak our day to day habits of buying too much, cooking too much, forgetting about the food we can’t see and not eating leftovers, we can have an impact on this complex problem.

Saving by behaving

OzHarvest (Australia’s leading food rescue organisation) has just released a report on Halving Household Food Waste.  The report is the result of Mark and the team reviewing international and Australian literature, and conducting online workshops with 30 experts.  They came up with 36 key actions to reduce food waste, broadly grouped into –

  • planning for shopping
  • shopping
  • storing food at home
  • cooking, and
  • eating


After surveying over 1600 Australian households, the team used BWA’s Sarah Kneebone’s Impact-Likelihood matrix to identify the top three behaviours to reduce food waste:


  1. preparing a meal made up of food needing to be used up,
  2. designating space in the fridge and/or pantry as food needing to be used up, and
  3. checking how many people are needing to be fed (so the right amount is prepared).

  • Text Hover


Use It Up

Working out what needs to be used up can be made easier when there’s a dedicated shelf for exactly that. OzHarvest, launching their national Use-It-Up food waste campaign, have also come up with a neat little reminder – Use It Up tape featuring stickers with messages like Use Me Up, Pick Me and Eat Me, which makes it easy to quickly see what needs using up first.  The tape can be used to mark out a designated shelf in the pantry or fridge for food items that need to be used up, or can go on individual items or containers as a reminder. As any behavioural scientist will tell you, making something easy is going to make it that much more doable.

Along with action on climate change, OzHarvest believes we can halve food waste by 2030.  Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn AO says “We cannot watch what’s happening to our planet and wait for others to fix this – tackling household food waste is the low hanging fruit and where we can get results fast!”.   

As well as the Use It Up tape, OzHarvest have come up with a powerful video message, a range of recipes, tips on using up commonly wasted food plus a range of influencers getting the message out there.  You can also order to tape from their website (its free, you just need to cover the postage).