How reducing food waste can contribute to positive environmental, social, and economic outcomes

Impact on our greenhouse gas emissions

  • 9% of New Zealand's biogenic methane emissions and 4% of our total greenhouse gas emissions are from food and organic waste.
  • Reducing food waste helps lower our greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions in the food production process, as well as emissions from the decomposition of food waste in landfill.

Social and economic benefits 

  • One in five children in New Zealand live in households experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity.
  • Redistributing good quality, surplus food to those who need it can have a positive impact on food security and community resilience.
  • Business and households can save money, through better resource efficiency and planning.
  • Food waste that does occur can be recovered and made into new things. For example Citizen Collective takes surplus bread and spent grains from brewing, turning the bread into beer and the spent grains back into bread.

Cross-government action on food waste

Ministry for Social Development

The Ministry for Social Development provides support for the food rescue sector through its Food Secure Communities programme.

In addition to funding local community food providers, the programme also helped to establish three national partner organisations:

  • New Zealand Food Network - distributes bulk surplus and donated food from food producers, growers, and wholesalers to food hubs around New Zealand on an ‘as required’ basis. These food hubs then distribute the food onto foodbanks and other community food services.
  • Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance - provides national support for local food rescue organisations to reduce food waste and increase food security through capacity building, promoting good practice, enhancing collaboration, and advocacy.
  • Kore Hiakai Zero Hunger Collective – supports frontline community food organisations to distribute food in mana enhancing ways, while also undertaking work to address the root causes of food insecurity.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

The Ministry for Primary Industries administers the Food Act 2014. MPI has developed advice on:

These pages provide useful information on:

  • Requirements under the Food Act 2014 for donating food
  • Information on ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates
  • Requirements for using food waste as animal feed
  • Legality and safety of ‘doggy bags’.

How we support food waste reduction

Food loss and waste definition for Aotearoa New Zealand

The Ministry has developed a definition for food loss and waste in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The definition supports government initiatives including:

  • measuring food loss and waste
  • improving household kerbside recycling collections
  • the emissions reduction plan.

Food loss and waste definition

Imported or domestically produced food and drink, including inedible parts, which leave the food supply chain from the point that crops and livestock are ready for harvest or slaughter onwards to the point of consumption, to be recycled, recovered or disposed of in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Government encourages anyone planning to measure food loss and waste to consider using this definition. This is so that measurements are conducted consistently across Aotearoa.

Find further information in Food loss and waste definition for Aotearoa New Zealand

Establishing a baseline measure of food loss and waste in Aotearoa

We are establishing a baseline measure of food loss and waste across Aotearoa. 

The initiative is in response to a recommendation by the Environment Committee in its March 2020 report. 

The research is to be carried out by the University of Otago and will measure:

  • food loss and waste throughout the food supply chain
  • where it ends up (eg, landfill, compost, animal feed).

Findings are expected to be published in early 2024.

Read the Environment Committee's March 2020 report [New Zealand Parliament website]

Read the Government response to the report

Separating food scraps from general waste for all businesses 

In 2023, the Government announced plans to get businesses ready to separate food scraps from general waste by 2030. The proposal was one of three the Ministry consulted on as part of the Transforming Recycling consultation. 

This work is being progressed alongside proposed new waste legislation. Once in place, it is likely that the proposed requirement will affect most businesses and organisations that produce waste. 

For more information on the scheme see Improving household recycling and food scrap collection

Funding food waste initiatives

Our Ministry has supported a number of initiatives to reduce food waste through the Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF). Some projects and organisations we have supported include:

  • Love Food Hate Waste – an ongoing national education campaign which provides resources, recipes, and tips to help households reduce their food waste.
  • Kai Ika - A collaborative project which collects fish heads, frames and other previously discarded fish parts, and redistributes these to families and community groups in Auckland who value these fish parts. Today, the Kai Ika project distributes more than two tonnes of fish off-cuts a week.
  • KiwiHarvest - a food rescue organisation that works with food businesses across Aotearoa to redistribute quality food that is unable to be sold for a variety reasons, such as oversupply or simply nearing its best-before or use-by date. To date, KiwiHarvest has rescued over 6,000 tonnes of food.

WMF funding 2021

The 2021 round for the WMF included investment signals for improved tools to avoid food waste and increased domestic capacity of existing food rescue organisations.

See projects funded to date

Funding for national food waste reduction programmes

We sought expressions of interest from organisations interested in developing and delivering national programmes to reduce food waste.

The call for expressions of interest closed on 4 December 2022.

The work involves designing, developing and delivering programmes that reduce food waste over a three-year period.

The programmes will aim to reduce food waste in three settings: households, Māori-led settings (such as marae, kōhango reo, kura kaupapa, papakāinga), and businesses.

Find out more about the programmes