Why farmers markets and food festivals?

Full of fresh and delicious food, farmers’ markets are places where people interested in local and sustainable food gather.  They bring together both ‘food retail’ stalls, selling fresh and processed produce, and ‘food service’ stalls, selling ready-to-eat, take-away food. Outside of people’s home, the food retail and food service industries are some of the biggest culprits of food waste in Australia. This makes them a great place talk about food waste!


A unique aspect of markets, compared to supermarkets, is that food stallholders generally represent the entire food life cycle chain (from production to processing, to retail and service). Talking about food waste at farmers markets is a unique was to get some runs on the board for avoiding food waste across all stages in the food lifecycle chain.


Who else is looking at food waste at markets and festivals?

Other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas have few initiatives that target avoiding food waste specifically at farmers markets and similar small-scale events.

The few programs that are working in similar areas (originating mostly in the UK) focus on waste management more generally at large scale (multi-day) festivals.  Where programs do look at food waste, they general focus on food waste management (such as organics recycling/composting) rather than on food waste avoidance (avoiding the generation of waste in the first place). In the rare cases when food waste avoidance is considered, ‘food rescue’ (redistributing surplus food to charities) is the focus rather than avoiding the generation of surplus or waste in the first place. See below for the full research.

In addition, the volume of avoidable food waste generated at these events has not been measured or reported.

While projects and resources that target food waste avoidance do exist, they are designed to assist traditional food retailers or food service businesses who operate out of standard venues such as supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, etc.

The research suggests that this project, with its focus on food waste avoidance at markets and small festivals, may be the first of its kind in the world.

Read a summary of the research below.

Review of precedents

[Extract from Background Research report]


A review of literature and related projects found there were few precedents for avoiding food waste at farmers markets and community festivals in Australia. Most similar projects are: in the UK, for large events/festivals, and focus on food waste management, with food rescue the only avoidance action.

Other relevant projects identified focus on: food waste avoidance in traditional food retailers or general waste management at events. The only identified examples of projects at farmers markets are individual market initiatives on surplus food redistribution (UK) or food recycling (UK and SA).

A number of existing resources contain information relevant to food waste avoidance at farmers markets and community festivals, but are generally targeted towards other purposes or audiences. No existing resources specifically address food waste avoidance at festivals / markets / events, in Australia or elsewhere.

Past projects

An online review of past projects, and interviews with key representatives identified only limited precedents.

A number of initiatives were identified that focused on general waste management at large festivals and other events (not specifically food festivals or farmers markets). Some of these included food waste management examples, e.g.

•    Glastonbury Festival: Food waste composting (50-70 tonnes food waste).

Only a few specific food waste project examples were identified, which almost always focus on food rescue /redistribution rather than food waste avoidance, e.g.

•    Fareshare 2014 Festival food rescue trial (UK, 164 traders, 12 tonnes surplus food)
•    Festival Food Waste Scheme + Surplus Supper Club (NCASS/Fareshare, UK)
•    Every Crumb Counts @ Roskilde Festival (Denmark)
•    PlanZheroes @ London’s Boroughs Markets (UK).

Only one project specifically mentioned food waste avoidance activities with stallholders:

•    Festival Food Waste Scheme (NCASS/ Fareshare, UK).

WRAP UK also gave examples of specific event businesses who undertake food waste avoidance activities, e.g.

•    Poco Loco/Poco Morocco: Use suppliers local to each event so that food can be ordered as needed if the festival is busy, avoiding the need to over-order, and if there is any surplus at the end of the festival, sauces are made out of fresh vegetables and meat is frozen for the next event.

Existing resources

An online review of existing food waste resources identified many sustainability and general waste resources for events and festivals, but few resources specific to food waste at festivals and farmers markets.

The following table sets out the resources identified and demonstrates their coverage across key areas of relevance to the project. No single resource covers the three key areas for this project: Food waste avoidance, at Festivals / markets / events, in Australia.

Relevant resources identified


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