Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Feeding the machine on Earth Overshoot Day

If you caught the ABC’s 4-Corners report, ‘Trashed’ this week, you’ll have seen a tip of the iceberg; a hardly surprising, corrupt tip, of the waste industry.

I wonder should we really actually bother teaching our children to recycle, reuse, repurpose, abstain from buying crap, when the people like those depicted in the program, people who are entrusted and claim they can be trusted, with the management of our refuse, are actually driven only by profits alone.

We really are just feeding a machine.

Earth Overshoot Day, previously known as Ecological Debt Day, is a case in point. It passed last week.

It’s a day where humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.

It means for example, many of those resources are used to produce food which no-one actually gets to eat.

Stuff gets wasted.

Thrown out.


Landfilled or dumped, legally or illegally.

The volume of water used to produce lost or wasted food is equivalent to 240 cubed kilometres. That’s 240,000,000,000,000 litres.

A hell of a lot of water which we’d notice if it was in front of us and it might actually get us thinking about our consumption behaviour.

But we chip away at that volume of water and other resources, pointlessly pretty much, with every purchase we make.

We’re on an exponential curve of waste creation.

I was buying bread this week from a bakery in town, slightly after closing time so I could only shop with cash.

A dash to get cash delayed me by five minutes. I returned and the wall of bread which was on display those five minutes earlier was gone.

“We don’t have any loaves left,” I was told.

“But… 40, 50 loaves? Where did they go?”

“We throw them out,” came the reply, as if I’d asked him the time.

And sure enough behind the shelves staff were busy bagging the perfectly good bread, baked fresh that day, along with all the energy in behind it – the water, the flour and farming process it took to bring it to market, the oil - into big black garbage bags.

Perhaps it was the look of disbelief on my face which prompted the staff member to say they did have a charity collect the leftovers one night a week.

As if that made it alright, what about the other six?

“A farmer picks it up and feeds it to his stock.”

According to Foodbank Australia, at some point every year, two million Australians seek food relief.

This seven days-a-week business throws out bread most nights of the year.

Earth OverShoot Day it seems is every day.

Yvette Aubusson-Foley

Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.