Non-Avoidable Food Waste

Learn what to do with food you can't eat

No matter how hard we try, some food will always go to waste.

There are some foods that we just can’t eat such as chicken bones and egg shells. This is non-avoidable food waste. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, food can go off.

But just because this food isn’t edible, doesn’t mean it should go in your rubbish bin. There are much better places for it.

Food Waste hierachy

This food waste hierarchy shows there are many better options for disposing of food than putting it in the bin. Image from Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

Give it to someone else

If you have more food than you are able to eat, give it to someone who can eat it. Offer your excess fruit to your neighbours, take the rest of that cake into work for your colleagues, donate items to your local food bank, drop it off to a Pataka Kai or community fruit and vegetable stand, or list it on the Social Pantry if you are based in Wellington.

With all of the resources invested in growing, making and transporting food, the best use of it is always for it to be eaten by humans.

Feed it to animals

If feeding people isn’t an option, do you have animals you can feed? Pigs, chickens, dogs and cats love food scraps and it will reduce your pet-food bill.

Beware, not all animals can eat all foods – for example you shouldn’t feed your dogs and cats chocolate. Things you could feed them are cooked meats and eggs, porridge, peanut butter, rice, salmon and fish skins. They can also eat fruit and vegetables but not avocados or grapes.


RadishIf you don’t have animals to feed your leftovers to and for things like banana skins, composting is the way to go.

As well as food scraps, leaves, shredded paper, toilet rolls and even vacuum cleaner dust can be combined together in a compost bin to make a great compost for your garden.

Bokashi is another form of composting, but doesn’t need as much physical work. With Bokashi you put all your non-avoidable food waste into a small bin and add a special micro-organism mix. When the bin is full, bury it in a hole in your garden. Within a week, your food scraps will begin to break down and fertilise your garden.

If you don’t have a large garden another option is a worm farm. Worms will eat most vegetables and fruit scraps, turning it into compost. Worm farms come in all shapes and sizes and some people have even been known to keep them under their beds if they live in small apartments.

For more information on which composting system would work for you visit our friends at the Compost Collective.

If you live in Auckland but don’t have the space to compost, check out Share Waste, a platform which connects people who have food scraps with people who have compost bins.

Waste Disposal Units

In some parts of New Zealand, using a waste disposal unit such as an insinkerator can be a good option. Food which goes down the sink ends up at a waste-water treatment plant where it is processed before going out to sea. Every region has different systems for dealing with waste water and sewerage, and some can handle food waste more easily than others. It is a good idea to check with your local council to see if their waste water system can handle food waste or not.


Some councils around the country such as Christchurch offer a separate food waste collection for households and more and more businesses also have access to private food waste collections. This food waste gets taken and turned into compost.

But, if you can’t divert your non-avoidable food waste in any of the ways above then using your rubbish bin is the last resort.

Tips to reduce food waste