Food waste ‘doubles’ in WA’s south-west during coronavirus panic buying

An organic farmer in Western Australia who turns discarded fruit and vegetables into compost saw food wastage double at the peak of coronavirus panic buying.

In March, some grocery store shelves were stripped bare of items like toilet paper and non-perishable food due to panic about the coronavirus.

However, Josh Berry, who has collected food waste from a supermarket and bakery in Bunbury for 15 years, said shorter life fruit and vegetables like bananas and broccoli were being discarded more often.

“The level of vegetable waste has increased significantly,” he said.

[We saw] a lot more leafy green type of materials.”

Every week, Mr Berry drops off 10 wheelie bins at a Bunbury supermarket, which are then filled with the unpurchased fruit and vegetables.

Mr Berry turns the food waste into compost, to use on his citrus trees and vegetables.

He said during normal weeks, only five of the 10 bins came back full.

“It just about doubled for … a two-week period.

“It’s just starting to peter out, but we’re still seeing about eight to nine bins [full] at the moment.”

Josh Berry uses the compost on his citrus trees.(ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Overall, food waste has dropped

Despite the recent spike, Mr Berry noticed a decline in the amount of food waste over the past 15 years.

“It’s come back quite a lot. It was just about religiously 14 to 18 bins [full a week].

“I think there were a lot of people who tried to reduce their food waste and took heed that generally people out there were concerned.”

Mr Berry said while supermarkets should do more to reduce food waste, shoppers also had a role to play in preventing perfectly good food from ending up in his compost pile.

“Walk up to the carrot department, close your eyes and grab the carrots off the shelf.

“If you do pick up a piece of fruit with a bad portion of it, in the scheme of things it’s not really going to matter.”

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