A wonky take on Australia’s big food waste problem

Adrian Black |

Victoria’s misshapen Big Strawberry is being used to draw attention to food waste.
Victoria’s misshapen Big Strawberry is being used to draw attention to food waste.

One of Australia’s ‘big’ fruits has grown in a new direction to shine a light on a global challenge.

A misshapen strawberry is one of about 230 ‘big’ things across Australia and its makeover is a collaboration between Dash Water – which makes imperfect fruit-infused sparkling water – and northern Victoria’s Big Strawberry to draw attention to the issue of food waste.

“It’s to spread the word that wonky fruits are just as beautiful and delicious,” Dash Water chief executive and founder Jack Scott told AAP.

Big Strawberry owner and purveyor of all things strawberry Tarn Hayes said she couldn’t be happier to bring attention to Australia’s food waste problem.

“Just because a piece of fruit and veg isn’t perfectly symmetrical, doesn’t mean it needs to go straight to landfill,” she said.

Donated food
Australia’s food waste costs the economy more than $36.6 billion each year. (Jane Dempster/AAP PHOTOS)

Each year Australia wastes about 7.6 million tonnes of food, enough to fill the MCG more than 10 times over.

It costs the economy more than $36.6 billion and wastes enough water to fill five Sydney Harbours.

Imperfect fruit and vegetables are the biggest contributor, with around 30 per cent of produce going straight to landfill.

The landmass required to grow Australia’s wasted food covers 25 million hectares, an area bigger than the state of Victoria.

End Food Waste Australia chief executive Steve Lapidge said it was cheaper in Australia to throw away food than donate it.

“We’re still in the situation that around 20 per cent of Australians are food insecure, yet we produce enough food to feed three times our population,” Dr Lapidge said.

The group connects producers with surplus food to businesses upcycling the excess into products like supplements or livestock feed.

Horticulture providers selling into retail settings often have to grow enough food to fulfil the biggest order, which isn’t always filled.

“That’s something we are trying to capture and make sure it doesn’t occur,” Dr Lapidge said.

“Whether it’s through better ordering or making sure that the whole crop is picked or harvested and can be utilised through different channels … such as ingredients or upcycled food products.”

The group and Ozharvest, Australia’s biggest food rescue organisation, have been calling for a national food plan and food donation tax incentives for producers and logistics companies, a key recommendation of 2023’s parliamentary inquiry into food security.

“The problem that we have (in Australia) is logistics … you can have thousands of tonnes of food going to waste in a week from just one farm,” an Ozharvest spokeswoman said.

“The cost of getting it off that farm and to either a hub that redistributes it or a community that needs it, there’s a lot of expense.”

Big Banana
There are about 230 ‘big’ things across Australia, including the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The tyranny of distance also feeds into the environmental cost, generating 17.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year and representing about 3 per cent of Australian greenhouse gas emissions.

“We do know that food waste rotting in landfill is regarded as one of the third biggest causes of methane production globally,” Dr Lapidge said.

Countries like Japan and South Korea have successfully banned food waste going into landfill altogether.

Ozharvest said getting the message across to consumers was equally important as efforts at corporate and government levels.

“Just the amount of effort and resources that go into producing food is huge,” the spokeswoman said.

“To throw it in the bin, It’s just it’s a complete waste of resources.”


* The Big Banana, Coffs Harbour, NSW

* The Big Pineapple, Woombye, Queensland

* The Big Strawberry, Koonoomoo, Victoria

* The Big Apple, Stanthorpe, Queensland

* The Big Lobster, Kingston, SA

* The Big Western Rock Lobster, Dongara, WA

* The Big Penguin, Penguin, Tasmania

* The Big Stubbie, Larrimah, NT

* The Big Potato, Robertson, NSW

* The Big Prawn, Exmouth, WA

* The Big Galah, Kimba, SA

* The Big Bullock, Rockhampton, Queensland

* The Big Cane Toad, Sarina, Queensland

* The Giant Koala, Dadswell Bridge, Victoria

* The Big Mosquito, Hexham, NSW

* The Big Merino, Goulburn, NSW