Updated 29 July 2021
Research conducted in April shows Millennials and Generation Z are not living up to their credentials as climate change activists with these two groups responsible for the largest amounts of food waste in the country.
The KANTAR survey of over 1,500 Kiwis* revealed that younger generations throw away a significantly higher proportion of their household food spend than older Kiwis while fruit and vegetables are the product they dispose of the most making up nearly two thirds of all food waste.
And while the amount we waste is slowly reducing, United Fresh President Jerry Prendergast believes we need to do more to manage our fresh produce more effectively.
“Eating a diet high in locally-grown, in season fruit and vegetables is one of the best choices we can make for the health of ourselves and the health of the planet. We just need to make some adjustments to the way in which we buy, store and use that fresh produce,” he says.
Just under half of New Zealanders have thrown away unopened or untried food with Generation Z at 49 percent, while Gen Y, or Millennials are at a massive 50 percent. In comparison, Gen X at 40 percent and Baby Boomers at 34 percent, are contributing fewer climate-damaging emissions.
“When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and resources it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and pack it. Food that is thrown into landfill then produces methane, a greenhouse gas even more damaging than carbon dioxide,” says Prendergast.
New Zealanders waste an estimated $2.4 billion worth of food each year, while worldwide as much as a third of all food produced goes to waste between the field and the fork.
“Reducing food waste has been ranked as the third best global solution to climate change. That’s a massive and relatively simple thing that each of us could be doing every day to reduce emissions,” says Prendergast.
“We encourage all Kiwis to make smart choices when they shop. Buy only what you need, store your fresh produce carefully and use as much of the plant as you can. Small choices like eating an apple with the skin on rather than peeling it or using up left over vegetables in a tasty soup can make a big difference.
The country’s $6 billion fresh produce industry is also keen to capture the climate activism passion of Generations Y and Z to drive a reduction in the waste produced by this group.
“Young Kiwis are strongly supportive of action to reduce climate change. We see a real opportunity here to highlight the connection between reducing food waste and reducing harmful emissions,” he says.
Prendergast notes the social impact of food waste is just as important as the environmental damage.
“Over 100,000 tonnes of perfectly good food is wasted each year in Aotearoa. At the same time, one in five children live with food insecurity.
United Fresh is one of many supporters working alongside New Zealand Food Waste Champions 12.3, a coalition of food industry leaders wanting New Zealand to halve food waste by 2030 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3. adopted by the United Nations in response to climate change.
The group are calling on the Government to set an official target to reduce food waste and to invest in prevention, redirection and innovation in the sector.
“Our growers put so much hard work into producing healthy fruit and vegetables, it’s heart-breaking to see it go to waste. Whether it’s loss at the point of harvest, in the retail environment or in the home, we need to rethink our food supply systems to make sure all Kiwis have access to fresh, nutritious food,” says Prendergast.
* Gen Z were born between 1997-2012, Millennials or Gen Y were born 1981-1996, Gen X were born 1965-1980 and Boomers between 1955-1946