ACCORDING to the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), Malaysians produce about 17,000 tonnes of food waste daily, of which 24% is still edible.
This amounts to about 4,080 tonnes or 4.08 million kg of good food going to waste every day.
In this issue, two participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team weigh in on the steps Malaysians can take to keep a lid on the problem.
For updates on the BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.
From picky to mindful
I EAT a variety of foods and I avoid discarding them.
Food contains a range of nutrients that keep my body functioning.
However, I used to be picky and would sometimes discard food, especially green vegetables, that I was not fond of eating.
My parents constantly reminded me of the impact of wasting food, but it wasn’t until the lockdown resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic that I began to change my ways.
During that period, my parents and I could not dine at food outlets, causing my food routine to change dramatically.
As we were limited to buying groceries at nearby provision shops and mini markets, my parents turned to home-cooked meals.
When the lockdown prolonged for months, I realised that if I were to continue my irresponsible food wasting habit, my family would soon run out of food for us to eat.
So, I challenged myself to eat the food that I disliked. I began with small amounts of vegetables and gradually increased the quantity.
The positive habit I adopted changed my aversion to vegetables tremendously. It turned out that not all vegetables were unpleasant. I slowly came to appreciate the smooth texture on my tongue when eating aubergines.
I also learnt the benefits of eating a variety of vegetables for my digestive system. Now, I have no problem finishing all the vegetables during mealtimes.
We have ways to reduce food waste in our lives.
First, take food according to your appetite. Never abuse the “eat until you drop” opportunity at a buffet by taking more delicacies than you can finish.
Instead, give yourself time to consider the amount of food you can take. If you are not good at estimating your food amount, use a small plate, so your brain interprets that you will feel full when the plate is filled. This indirectly prevents you from being tempted to overeat.
Continue eating on a small plate until you feel full enough to stop. By doing so, we can prevent restaurants from discarding contaminated food from guests, and help control the amount of food used in cooking.
Moreover, we can ask others to help finish the food that we cannot consume. When dining with family and friends at food outlets, if you estimate that you won’t be able to finish the meal, request your companions to assist you with the remaining food.
If they agree, distribute the excess food to them using a clean fork and spoon. Never contaminate the excess food with your utensils before distributing it.
If they decline the offer, pack the remaining food and consume it at a later time as soon as possible.
Besides that, we should plan ahead before buying food.
According to SWCorp, a significant amount of discarded food waste is avoidable if consumers consume food smartly. These smart tips include thorough planning, such as buying only necessary food and regulating the portion of food cooked.
So, make a checklist before buying food and set a deadline for your family to finish it. If your family cannot do so, donate the food to a nearby food box, such as at legislators’ offices or non-governmental organisations like Kechara Soup Kitchen.
When cooking at home, ask your family members if they are coming back to eat and prepare the meals accordingly. When considering buying new food, check your fridge first to see if there is any food left. After that, buy the food according to your needs.
In conclusion, food waste can be prevented in our daily lives. All we need to do is be aware of the consequences of wasting food and the precautions we can take to avoid it. Start your food waste reduction journey now before we potentially face catastrophic food shortages. – By AARON LIM, 19, Johor
Cutting excess in restaurants
FOOD waste management is easier to handle when you are a consumer in control of the products you buy and involved in the action where food waste is a choice.
For example, when grocery shopping, you can choose whether or not to buy the food.
However, what happens in circumstances beyond our control, such as the food that goes to waste in restaurants at the end of the day?
Ultimately, we have the choice to educate ourselves on tackling food waste in restaurants because it is a behavioural and attitude problem that requires a two-party solution from both consumers and suppliers.
The solution needs to align with sustainable development goals and must be accommodating.
In countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, food waste management programmes have been implemented, where excess foodstuffs are repurposed and redistributed.
Although this practice is also observed in Malaysia by some environmental non-governmental organisations, our socioeconomic and environmental impacts are different from those of the UK and the Netherlands, making full application challenging.
Therefore, it is advisable for national policymakers to centralise their commitment to improving food waste management by raising consumer awareness.
Individuals can make informed choices about the restaurants they patronise if restaurateurs take the responsibility to ensure food waste mitigation in their restaurant policies.
Some schools in Malaysia have initiated food waste recycling programmes, teaching students from an early age about the importance of reducing food wastage.
These schools could potentially collaborate with restaurants, working together to practise and promote food waste recycling.
It is an added benefit when both parties incentivise food redistribution, which can be done through volunteering programmes where food donors match with food suppliers.
When restaurant owners collaborate with students from schools that practise food waste recycling, it not only fosters a sense of community, but also allows for learning from diverse backgrounds.
Furthermore, this will showcase the school’s achievements and its impact on the community in terms of food waste recycling, providing a framework that other schools can use for remodeling.
Another perspective to consider is the ongoing food trend that businesses and consumers are trying to keep up with, widely known as cafe-hopping.
As consumers, many of the choices we make regarding food waste are avoidable, provided that we are willing to participate in reducing food wastage. This can begin as simply as not preparing, cooking or serving too much and using it within a limited time.
We can observe this concept being most effectively applied to packaged foods with expiration dates and labels, such as “best before” and “use by” dates. The issue arises when consumers are unaware of the difference between these two labels, unconsciously contributing to the overflow of food wastage.
Moreover, implementing solutions does not just happen overnight; it requires a collective understanding of the underlying factors to implement practical interventions for reduction.
Lastly, we must bear in mind the situational factors that affect the problem. Restaurants could easily donate leftovers to those in need.
By understanding the benefits of food donations and fostering appropriate educational awareness that bridges the knowledge gap, businesses and restaurants can adjust their policies accordingly. – By NURFATIHAH IRDINA, 23, Kuala Lumpur
With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.
1. How many food names can you list within one minute? Write them down. Then, exchange lists with your friend. The winner is the one with the longest list of correctly spelt names.
2. In groups of four, create a poster using words and pictures from today’s newspaper. Include five suggestions on how to reduce food wastage. Present your poster in class, and have your classmates vote for the most impactful design. The winning poster will be pinned up on the school noticeboard. Have fun!
The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.