Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Make food wastage a punishable crime

food-wasteAbout 7.34 million tonnes of solid wastes were generated in Malaysia in 2005, enough to fill up 42 buildings the size equivalent to the PETRONAS Twin Towers. Solid waste generation is expected to reach 30,000 tonnes per day in 2020. Of the composition of solid waste, it is estimated that about 45% is made up of food waste. (Source: Ministry of Housing and Local Government)
 

This does not come as a surprise since we Malaysians do indeed waste food.  It is sinful that there is so much leftovers at fast food eateries, at coffee shops, at food courts, at restaurants and even in our own homes. Even more is left uneaten at official functions, birthdays and wedding receptions.

Food wastage becomes a problem as society becomes more affluent.  In Singapore food wastage came up to 558,900 tonnes in 2008 and has increased by 6.2% since 2002. The Japanese throw away one-fourth of available food whilst the United Kingdom throws out 4.1 million tones of edible  food. In the United States, up to 30% of food, worth some $38.3 billion, is thrown away annually.  Australians waste $6 billion of food each year — enough to feed the entire nation for 3 weeks.

There are many reasons why we should not be wasting food.

food-waste2It is morally wrong to waste food because there are people who are hungry or dying simply because they have no food. According to the UN’s World Food Organization, around 920 million people are going hungry worldwide; a third of them are children.

It is said that 5% of Americans’ leftover food could feed 4 million people for 1 day.  France’s leftover could feed Congo and that of Italy’s could feed Ethiopia’s undernourished. (Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun 28.07.08)

Moneywise it is not smart to pay for food which you do not eat. According to WRAP,   the UK government’s waste watchdog, British households throw away 20% of the food that they buy even though it is till edible. Food waste cost the average household  ?420 (RM 2,394)  a year.  

For example, a cup of coffee accounts for about 140 litres of water that is used in growing, producing, packaging and shipping the beans. Meanwhile a shirt made from cocoon grown in Pakistan soaks up 2,700 litres of water (Reuters, 22.08.08).

The decomposition of food and other organic waste material in landfills produces methane, which is 20 times a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

We should have a campaign against food wastage. (UK started a Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007.) The campaign should encourage proper planning of meals, saving leftovers, ordering sensibly when eating out and using a doggy bag for leftovers. The campaign should inspire consumers to exercise restrain during festivities and during celebrations of birthdays, reunions and weddings.  All these simple measures can go a long way in reducing food wastage.

Composting should be practised by households as a means of cutting down on the waste that would otherwise end up in the garbage bag.  

On the institutional side, government agencies and companies should not go overboard on the amount of food served at official and corporate functions. Restaurants should also fine those who have leftovers on the plates. Lastly restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets should give away unsold edible food to charities and orgnisations which work with the hungry and destitute. Legislation must be introduced to penalise food “macro-wasters” such as hotels, large eateries and factory canteens.  Offenders — even if they are 5-star hotels — should be publicised so as to discourage others.

Throwing away food whilst others go hungry is morally unacceptable, financially wasteful and environmentally harmful. To continue to waste food would be tossing our moral compass into the trash can together with our uneaten food.  

Let the war on food wastage begin today!