© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

New Zealand's food waste problem is costing Kiwis millions

Alice Webb-Liddall
rescued from the rubbish
One New Zealand family throws away almost double this amount per year  lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz

More than $800-million worth of good food is wasted each year in New Zealand.

Kiwi families throw out up to three shopping trolleys of edible food a year, costing them hundreds of dollars, says an anti-waste group.

Sarah Van Boheemen,  a spokesperson from WasteMINZ, which has more than 1000 members ranging from councils to individuals, said too few people knew the extent of Kiwis’ wasteful ways.

“That is not things like what we consider to be unavoidable food waste - things like chicken bones, banana peel, eggshells and things that you wouldn’t usually eat, this is all edible food. 

WasteMINZ and group Love Food Hate Waste sifted through hundreds of kilos of family waste to figure out how much New Zealand families are wasting every year.

The country’s food waste is in excess of $872 million per year.

Re-Think Waste educator Lesley Ottey said people had lost their respect for food.

“If you ask the older generation, they don’t understand food wastage because they grew up when there wasn’t as much readily available… it’s easy to get and even easier to throw away.”

Love Food Hate Waste said Kiwis were more likely to throw out bread than any other type of food, with over 20 million loaves thrown out annually.

To put this into perspective, the University of Canterbury and Love Food Hate Waste created a pyramid made from loaves of bread.

The ENSOC students of Canterbury University build a pyramid of bread to show how much bread kiwis waste in an hour

Celebrity chef Jax Hamilton said there needed to be more education and awareness of how much edible food waste New Zealanders produced.

“I don’t think people see throwing away the ends of bread as wasting. I don’t think they see giving bread to ducks as waste.”

There was a big environmental impact from the waste.

Ottey said biodegradable waste, including food scraps, created harmful greenhouse gases when dumped into landfills.

“If it’s going into a landfill, it’s creating methane gas and leachate, which are two chemicals that we do not want.”

Van Boheemen said New Zealand’s food waste problem was one of the worst in the world.

“The carbon emissions from food waste would be third in the world behind the carbon emissions from the US and China.”


Love Food Hate Waste created six tips for people wanting to decrease their food waste. 

1.              Plan meals

Van Boheemen said it didn’t take too long to plan a week of meals.

“Every time you eat food, you have to go and source yourself that food… every single one of those times there is an opportunity to only buy the amount that you need or to make smarter decisions.”

2.              Write a shopping list

Shopping lists helped people to not get sucked into what Ottey called the ‘“bargain trap”.

3.              Know the difference between “Best Before” and “Use By”

Ottey said they meant two different things.

“The Use By date is about food safety, the Best Before refers to when it’s freshest.”

4.              Set your fridge to below 5 degrees Celsius

“Most fridges in New Zealand are too warm,” said Ottey.

5.              You can freeze any food right up to its Use By date

“If you’re not going to eat it that week and you know it’s getting close, whack it in the freezer."

6.              Apples should be stored in the fridge

Ottey said in the fridge, apples could last up to two weeks longer.


To people who say they don’t have time to plan their meals Ottey said there was always time to make time.

“I don’t buy that. Whether it’s from an environmental point of view or it’s about saving money everybody’s connected by food. So you just have to find something that works for you. We all have the same amount of time.”

Lesley Ottey talks about the waste problem and how we can all do our bit