Time to get serious about food waste

The tallest twin towers in the world is Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, standing at 451.9 metres tall. Now try to imagine 16 of these twin towers being filled to the brim with food waste? This could well be the reality if we don’t do something about the problem of food waste.

According to the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), by 2020 the total amount of food waste can certainly fill up 16 of the twin towers. Here’s another fact: Malaysians waste about 16,688 tonnes of food per day, an amount that can easily feed around 2.2 million people, three times a day!

In a nod to this very worrying issue, Sunway Pyramid, Sunway Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) and Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa, with the support of the Sustainable Development Department of Sunway Group are working together to tackle the food waste issue in the country with the recent launch of their campaign, Food CPR – Compost. Plant. Reduce.

This effort which is being undertaken by the Sunway Group is in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), with particular emphasis on SDG’s 12th goal, which is responsible consumption and production.

Sunway City has started to reduce its food waste with the aid of an on-site compost machine by Mentari Alam EKO (MAEKO), a Malaysian company which specialises in food-waste management.

The machines have been installed by the Sunway Group to help reduce leftovers from being sent to the landfill where harmful green gases would be released. Food waste collected from 34 F&B (food and beverage) partners under the group will then be turned into compost and distributed to visitors to the mall for their personal use.

Food waste isn’t just the trash that we produce or accumulate during or after our meals. There are many more things that can be considered food waste, namely leftovers or rejected food items.

Rejected items, especially food products from farmers or suppliers, are the biggest contributors to the food waste found in landfills. Most supermarkets will reject ugly or misshapen products and that in turn, will leave the farmers with no other option but to throw them away.

Research states that 49 per cent of the waste in landfills is made up of organic food waste. Whilst we’re deeply concerned about the problem of plastic slowly filling up the earth, it (plastic) only constitutes 14 per cent of the trash.

All the waste or trash from households or commercial buildings are collected and sent to landfills, where they’re eventually buried. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the process and neither is it the end of our problem. In fact, burying the food trash ends up creating a harmful greenhouse gas called methane, which can cause global warming. In order to avoid the mass production of methane gas, we need to reduce the number of food waste in the landfills. This much needed action has to be a concerted one, involving not only corporations or the government, but also the public. After all, household waste does make up a huge percentage of the waste that goes to landfills.

DANGER OF FOOD WASTE
Food waste releases methane gas and this gas is far more dangerous than carbon dioxide as it absorbs heat more than other greenhouse gases. Even though the lifespan of methane is shorter than carbon dioxide, the effect of the gas is more potent. The heat that it absorbs can warm the earth in a short time.

The warming of the earth in turn will lead to rising sea level as well as climate change. This is already happening now. The world has become hotter and the weather, unpredictable. Even Iceland recently held a “funeral” for its glacier, which has been lost to climate change.

SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are initiatives being taken around the world, including in our country, to address this very critical issue of food waste. Hotels, for example, have gotten into the act by charging its customers for any leftovers or food wasted during buffets or when dining in their restaurants. In doing so, diners would be more conscious of just how much they’re piling on their plates and be more mindful to avoid being penalised.

According to Yap Lip Seng, the chief executive officer of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), a more interactive method has been installed by serving food by orders at the food counters during buffets and serving them in smaller portions. “This will reduce the leftovers from the customers,” he adds. In addition to this, Yap shares that leftovers from the buffet would also be distributed to the employees or donated to other places as long as they’re deemed safe to be consumed.

Meanwhile, there’s also The Lost Food Project, a food bank that has played a significant role towards reducing the amount of food that goes to landfills. The organisation collaborates with food distributors and suppliers to salvage as much food as they can so that it can be shared with underprivileged people around the country.

Korea is a good example of a country that has managed to successfully reduce its food waste. The South Korean government has banned the dumping of food waste in landfills; instead, the citizens are required to recycle it all. Today, 95 per cent of food waste in the country has been recycled.

And what about urban farming? Urban farms give city dwellers the chance to produce their own food and also learn in the process. This type of farming helps to reduce negative environmental impacts as it promotes sustainable agriculture. Food waste or leftovers are recycled and turned into compost, which means that nothing is wasted.

In essence, there’s much that we can do to be a part of the solution towards the food waste problem that the world is experiencing. Suffice to say, everyone needs to play their part, not only corporations like the Sunway Group, whose campaign – Food CPR: Compost. Plant. Reduce – is definitely a step in the right direction.

THINK FIRST
1.Plan before you buy things. Know the exact amount of ingredients and materials that you need to make your meals so that there will be no leftovers every time you cook.

2.Be creative and brave to recycle your food. Recycling is not only applicable to solid materials like plastic, glass or paper. Food can be recycled too and you can come up with new ideas and creations from your leftovers. Not only will this help to save the environment, you’ll also be saving your money.

3.Know that the expiration date does not signify that the food can no longer be eaten. It’s there to inform the consumer that the product will no longer be in the best condition if the date expires. However, that doesn’t mean that the food can’t be consumed. There’s no need to throw it away.

All Credit and Copywriting goes to News Street Times By Ameerah Husna Zaki
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