Welcome to the waste land

Discarded food is choking our landfills, with Kiwis binning more than 700,000 tonnes of it last year.

Of the 702,800 tonnes of organic waste that went into dumps around the country last year, by far the greatest proportion came from our kitchens.

Councils are fighting an uphill battle to keep household, supermarket and restaurant waste out of landfills, with the country's proportion of organic waste increasing 7 per cent between 2002 and 2008, ranking us 19th in the OECD for the amount of food and green waste chucked out.

A study by waste management consulting firm Eunomia found food scraps made up 40 per cent of residential kerbside collections.

While there was no national breakdown, councils are working to drop waste rates.

In Tasman-Nelson, 13,500 tonnes of food a year is diverted from landfill through kerbside collections, and in Timaru 14,223 tonnes of food and garden waste was diverted.

People were buying too much and need to take responsibility for their food-buying habits, says Green Party waste spokeswoman Denise Roche.

"We throw out enormous amounts of food because we buy too much. It's a sign of prosperity, I guess."

The Greens want Waste Minimisation Act amendments to prevent reliance on landfills, and a ban on perishables going to landfill, with financial penalties for on those who flout the law.

Roche said the cost of a product's disposal should be met by consumers at the time of purchase, and there should be refunds for recycling containers.

An initiative in London's Hackney showed how change could be handled, she said. Residents were employed to collect food scraps from homes every three days. Seeing their food waste sitting on a bench alerted residents to how much they were throwing out.

"Their buying habits changed immediately."

A study on family-buying habits was carried out by the Waiheke Resource Trust recently. It found homes with teenage boys threw out the least food.

Sunday Star Times