The dirty secrets of Wellington households are being revealed as part of a region-wide survey on food waste.
Rubbish bags from 300 homes were torn open and analysed at the Southern Landfill, between Brooklyn and Owhiro Bay, this week to determine how much food the region threw away.
A dozen staunch workers pushed aside smelly nappies, dirty underpants and other unsavoury trash to get to binned food.
Each home's waste was sorted into food types, then weighed and recorded on a spreadsheet. Feijoas, mandarin peelings, half-eaten chicken thighs and bread were common items.
Much of the binned food was perfectly good, but might have passed its "best by" date, said Meagan Miller, Wellington City Council's waste minimisation officer.
"Once upon a time people smelled things, now people just look at a date and panic. You've got a lot of hungry people in the world, you've got to question why we're throwing so much away."
Binning groceries was not only a waste of food, but also the water used on crops, and fuel for transport, she said.
She would use the findings to calculate how much money an average Wellington household wasted by binning food. In a similar British study from 2007, the average household threw away four kilograms of edible food each week, wasting $1377 a year.
The surveyed households were chosen to reflect Wellington's economic makeup. An education campaign is now being devised by greater Wellington's nine councils to combat food waste, likely to include tips about cooking leftovers and storing food correctly.
Writing a shopping list was the best way to avoid buying unnecessary groceries, Miller said. "It's so simple but so effective."
No information yet existed on New Zealanders' food waste habits, and Wellington's survey was being watched with interest by councils nationwide, said project co-ordinator Roderick Boys, of Upper Hutt City Council.
- The Dominion Post