Food Waste and the Environment

To create awareness of the impact of food waste on the environment, and what we can do about it, Rotary Melbourne partnered with OzHarvest and the City of Melbourne to present a lunch at Cumulus Inc on 1st May, as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2021.

The lunch was hosted by Mikaela Stafrace of Rotary Melbourne who moderated a high-profile panel of Ronni Kahn AO, CEO and Founder of OzHarvest, Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO VicHealth, and Phoebe Gardner, CEO and Founder of Bardee.

The zero-waste lunch prepared by Cumulus Inc consisted of:


Jerusalem artichoke, pine mushroom, coastal greens

Main course

Wild Samber Venison, pickled and braised beetroot tops, blackberry & beetroot ketchup


Hunted and Gathered chocolate &macadamia parfait, salted caramel

Venison are an integral part of the Parks Victoria culling program, eating the problem. The entrée and coastal greens were foraged by Cumulus staff for the occasion.

And there was a take home gift by the Sofitel of Rescued plum and blackberry jam.

Ronni spoke about the impact of COVID and how in the last year alone OzHarvest had rescued 11 million kilograms of food, which was distributed to the needy, many of whom had never needed food before. This included partnering with other charities to distribute meals and also hampers which became known as “dignity boxes”.

Phoebe spoke about how Bardee processes 70,000kgs of organic food waste each week, using insects, into protein which is similar nutritionally to salmon. It is used for livestock feed and pet food. It is actually cheaper for manufacturers to send food to them, rather than landfill. They now have about 100 million insects in their labs in Sunshine!   

Sandro spoke about the seventeen United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which Australia has signed up to achieve by 2030. Goal 12.3 is to halve food waste by 2030, and food is central to almost all of the UN goals. He also spoke about how to do this by making the focus of our diet more plant based and using meat sparingly, and about growing the right food in the right place.

What can governments do?

  • Councils need to get greater consistency in food waste disposal
  • Take climate change seriously
  • Teach and educate particularly in schools, make our kids little climate change activists, and champions of healthy food.

Phoebe was asked about technology, and she said that the technology is here – we just need to operationalise it.

What can we do?

Ronni spoke about how one third of each shopping basket is wasted. The methane from food waste that goes to landfill is more than from the whole aeronautical industry.

We must change our shopping habits and buy local.

What we found out

  • Copenhagen signalled it would only buy organic in 5 years, and it is now more affordable than other food
  • Write to your government, don’t email as they are required to respond to letters.
  • Industry, farmers, growers factories, supermarkets etc., contribute 50 per cent towards food waste, but the consumer contributes the other half
  • One third of bananas that are grown never even leave the farm
  • The challenge is to collect and recycle food waste direct from the farm
  • A huge amount of fruit has gone to waste during COVID due to not being picked
  • Climate change is a much bigger challenge to food relief than COVID ever was
  • OzHarvest have a supermarket in Sydney for rescued food – take what you need, pay what you can – no questions asked!
  • The human market hasn’t yet embraced manufactured food protein, even though it is certified for human consumption, it can be made available when the market is ready.

It was a great event addressed by leaders who are passionate about their subject, who inspired us all to do what we can to transition towards sustainable food practices.

By Garry Fowler – Chair, Rotary Melbourne Environment Sustainability Committee

Listen to the podcast which is attached, and you will be inspired to!

Live recording from Round Plate Event, May 1, 2021

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