The Northern Rivers food industry is stepping up to fight the war on food waste. As part of the ‘Your Business is Food Program’, 20 of the region’s most prominent restaurants, retailers and manufacturers have taken up the challenge. Linda Tohver from North East Waste says that food waste is a massive problem for the industry, and the Northern Rivers is no exception. “NSW food businesses currently throw away over 30% of their food,” says Linda. “That’s a big problem from both an environmental and business sustainability perspective. And of course, 2020 has been a tough year and it’s been difficult for businesses to manage food in the most efficient way.” Your Business is Food is a free program which helps businesses waste less food and improve profits. Members receive a free waste assessment, report and support to undertake waste avoidance actions, along with access to grants and promotion. “From renowned restaurants like Harvest at Newrybar to world-class manufacturers like Brookfarm and pubs like The Beach Hotel at Byron, we have some of the most recognisable names in the game leading the charge.” “The program helps businesses prevent edible food from going in the bin and to donate surplus food to a food agency,” stated Linda. “Whether it’s looking at smart ways to prevent over-ordering or designing menus to avoid food waste, our Northern Rivers businesses have shown remarkable innovation, not to mention community goodwill. Through the COVID-19 crisis, they’ve had to quickly adapt their business models and many have also made regular food donations to local charities.” According to a recent report by Champions 12.3, restaurants save an average of $7 in operating costs for every $1 they invest in programs to reduce kitchen food waste. This was based on a survey of 114 restaurants across 12 countries and highlights the cost-savings available to businesses. Harvest Restaurant at Newrybar near Byron Bay is one of the names leading the way. This award-winning restaurant has committed to ‘zero-waste’ from the kitchen. They also make regular donations of surplus food to local food relief agency Liberation Larder, which helps provide nutritious food to people in need. Tristan Grier from Harvest says the program has been invaluable across the whole business from the restaurant to the artisan deli, wood-fired bakery and local produce boxes. “The food waste audit was extremely helpful,” says Tristan. “One of the main benefits has been having an outside set of eyes, along with ideas and advice. Our staff have also been hugely supportive.” Your Business is Food is open to food manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs and hotels in the Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed areas. The manufacturing component to the program, working with local food manufacturing businesses to develop the tools they need to make informed decisions about how to measure, map and reduce their food waste is also about to be launched. For further information, or to sign up your food business, visit www.newaste.org.au/ybif. Your Business is Food is a Love Food Hate Waste Program coordinated by North East Waste on behalf of its member north coast Councils and the NSW EPA’s Waste Less Recycle More initiative funded by the waste levy.