How a TV show helped me - and everyone - waste less.

War on Waste - ABC
Thanks to our brand partner, War on Waste - ABC

Like many other Australians, every week I head to the grocery store and procure a whole lot of fresh produce that ends up being thrown into the bin come Monday night. All because I never got around to cooking it up.

I buy some fun, cheap new clothes each month to give my wardrobe an easy lift and pound through five to 10 takeaway disposable coffee cups in a bid to get myself through the working week.

I always thought I was just hurting myself (and my bank balance), but after watching ABC’s documentary series War On Waste it quickly became clear just how much my careless attitude towards waste and disposal was actually hurting our country and the environment.

Take the coffee cup issue, for example. When the show’s host, TV presenter and comedian Craig Recaussel, packed a Melbourne tram full of 50,000 disposable cups that end up in landfill, it was a sobering sight indeed. He told onlookers that we throw out more than 1 billion a year, and around 50,000 every 30 minutes. No wonder the #BYOCoffeeCup movement is taking off (reusable cups like KeepCup are genius).

Cups, cups and more cups. Image: ABC.

For me, it's one of the highlights of this thought-provoking three-part series, which is on ABC iview now.

The Chaser's Craig is in no way afraid to get his hands dirty, literally plunging his hands into people's overflowing bins and taking part in a late-night dumpster dive in a bid to show the community exactly how much good produce they are needlessly throwing out each week.

You may think that tossing your used plastic bags into the recycling bin is the way to curb this increasing waste issue, but the cold hard statistics presented in War On Waste tell a very different story. According to the documentary, Australian families throw out more than $3500 worth of groceries a year. As a country, we wasted 3.3 million tonnes of food in 2014/15 – enough to fill the MCG six times over. Makes you think, huh?

It wasn't always this way. In the 1960s, Australians were considered among the best in the world when it came to the ways they dealt with waste. But in recent decades, the combined effects of consumer demand, supermarket policies and cynicism about the effectiveness of waste and recycling campaigns has seen a surge in the volume of waste we produce as a nation.

Craig Reucassel kicks off the War on Waste by tackling the issue of food waste as a staggering amount ends up in landfill every year. Image: ABC.

This is important information, but presented as a series of cold hard facts it can be a bit hard to take in the magnitude of what's really going on. So, from the very first episode, Reucassel took this show on the road.


He paid a visit to a series of banana farms in Far North Queensland (bananas are the top-selling fruit product in Australia - we eat five million a day), where he was horrified to discover just how much damaged fruit is tossed aside each year. As was I.

Dozens of bananas were pulled from the piles, examined and then thrown in the trash. It turns out bananas face higher beauty standards than the Miss Universe contestants, and are quickly passed over for being too fat, long, short, marked or curved.

According to War On Waste, up to 40 percent of our bananas are thrown away by farmers in Australia each year. Of the 80 million bananas grown each year, farmers are forced to discard more than 30 million of them.

This is not the farmers' fault - watching large sections of their crops being discarded hurts them immensely - but what else are they supposed to do when they know the shopping centre chains will accept nothing less than perfection?

Can we, as a nation, force big businesses to waste less? Can we all do a little bit better? Image: ABC.

Another particularly powerful scene was when Reucassel stood in front of a shopping centre and sorted through their freshly packed grocery bags, carelessly tossing one in five of their newly bought produce into a nearby wheelie bin. Just to show them how much they will waste by the week's end.

It's these real life, truthful and sobering moments that show the true power of documentaries and War on Waste in particular. All those sobering facts and figures, important as they may be, have the tendency to swirl into an incomprehensible vortex before our eyes unless they are given some real context.

Craig Reucassel (right) in ABC's War on Waste. Image: ABC.

In War on Waste the harsh reality of what is happening to our world is presented in a compelling, relatable way. We see the huge trucks piled high with food, showing just how much a household can waste in a year. We see the piles of discarded food on farms and the lasting consequences our fast fashion obsession will bring to the world and suddenly it all starts to click.

The research, cinematography and concepts explored in War On Waste all blend seamlessly together to paint a picture of what Australia is facing.

Television has a way of changing how we see the world and War on Waste is one of those rare TV events that will not only change how we see the world, but how we treat it as well.

War On Waste is now on ABC iview.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner War on Waste - ABC