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Grab that sad, single banana and take it home – but don’t forget to eat it

We’ve all let half a loaf of bread grow mouldy, or purged our fridge of too many spoiled vegies. But you might be shocked by just how much produce we let wither and decompose.

Good Weekend editor Katrina Strickland certainly was. “If food waste was a country it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the US and China,” she says, introducing the latest episode of Good Weekend Talks. “And the UN estimates that 17 per cent of global food production is wasted, totalling almost 1 billion tonnes a year.”

The amount of food Australia throws away each year would, in fact, fill the MCG 10 times over. And we outperform other countries in what we throw away. But there are innovative minds trying to solve this problem. That much was detailed in our featured story this week, “Waste not want not” by freelance food writer Dani Valent, who joined us on the podcast.

“How can we be more frugal, more economical?” Valent asks. “When we’re shopping, can we not buy as much? When we’re eating out, should we not be over-ordering?” There’s an onus on everyone. “Households are the biggest culprit in the end,” she says. “We can blame the farms. We can blame the supermarkets. We can blame the supply chain. But in the end, the buck really stops with us at home.”

Yet there are chefs and bartenders, suppliers and tech wizards all trying to make a difference in this space. One of them, Joshua Ball, the co-founder of imperfect produce distributor Farmers Pick, which works directly with growers to source unwanted (ill-shapen, over-ripe, spotted or small) fruit and vegies and sell them direct to consumers.

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“About a third of the volume of food that’s wasted is just left on the farm,” Ball says. “It never gets out the farm gates – it’s left to rot in the orchard.” He and his best mate and co-founder, Josh Brooks-Duncan, came up with the idea of harnessing this unused produce after an epiphany while walking through a farmer’s market. “I noticed the carrots weren’t plasticky or dead straight – things were a little bit big, a little bit small, and it didn’t really matter. No one really puts much onus on the shape or the size: not if they’re fresh.”

That’s his best advice for conscience cooks, in fact, to buy that weird piece of produce, the one that looks imperfect. “The single banana is the most wasted piece of fruit on the shelf at the store, because it’s not seen as bountiful, and it’s left sort of alone. It’s this sad little single banana. So grab that single banana and take it home.”

Good Weekend Talks offers readers the chance to delve even deeper each week into Good Weekend’s most intriguing stories, with lively insight from writers, editors and experts. Listen to more episodes by subscribing to Good Weekend Talks wherever you get your podcasts.