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“The truth is, it’s up to us”: Kahn raises food waste concerns on Q&A

Ronni Kahn joined a panel of experts to discuss the war on waste that is costing the Australian economy millions

Panellists on the ABC’s Q&A program have called for the public and organisations to take action against food waste and plastic pollution amid concerns the government is over legislated.

Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest founder and CEO, was one of the panellists appearing on the special ‘War on Waste’ episode addressing plastic pollution and Australia’s food waste problem.

“The truth is, it’s up to us,” the Kahn said. “We can point fingers, we can say government should ban [plastic bottles] and maybe they should make it harder or make it more expensive, but each and every one of us are buying bottles of water.

“I’m always very wary of pointing fingers at other people, and definitely government could do more, but so could all of us as consumers. We have to take responsibility, we have to take action and be responsible for the results.”

Food waste is currently costing the Australian economy $20 billion a year with five tonnes of food ending up in landfill. Half of this comes from consumers homes, which is more than the combined waste from farms, manufacturers and supermarkets.

Fellow panellist Gayle Sloan, CEO of Waste Management Australia, however urged Australia’s governments to take action.

“The European Union can get 28 countries to move in the same direction at the same time and we’re still dealing with strange anomalies such as waste transportation to Queensland,” Ms Sloan said. “We don’t have a level-playing field or a consistent approach in Australia (for waste management) which is really challenging.”

Kahn said OzHarvest was instrumental in committing the government to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste by 2030.

“What I can tell you is that there is a steering committee, there is a national food waste strategy that is being worked on that intends to halve food waste,”  Kahn said.

Kahn suggests that standardisation of labels on food would be a good start as well as relaxing supermarket cosmetic guidelines of food to relieve pressure on farmers.

When asked whether Australia should adopt a French legislation that ensures supermarkets donate food to charities, Kahn said the government is over-legislated and she believed charities were already doing the work.

“In France, when they bought out that legislation there weren’t even organisations like OzHarvest to collect that food, so they legislated and supermarkets haven’t known really what to do with their surplus food,” Kahn said.

“So I personally don’t believe in more legislation. I believe there is a hierarchy of where food should go. We should prevent it, we should feed people, we should make sure that we compost and very, very lastly it should go to landfill.”

Panellist and host of War on Waste with The Chaser, Craig Reucassel, added that Australia is really behind in its approach to food waste, and commended charitable organisations work in reducing the problem.

He added that a year’s worth of food waste creates 7.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, creating an “enormous greenhouse gas effect.”

“The French rules are about making sure food goes to charity, [but] you need the charity there to deal with it,” Reucassel said.

“People like OzHarvest and Foodbank and all these different kinds of organisations are fantastic in Australia and are doing amazing, amazing work.”

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