FOOD waste is a global phenomenon. It is discussed at various world forums and seminars on numerous occasions but the many strategies and approaches adopted so far have not brought tangible results.
All we get is the magnitude of the problem at hand and the likelihood of greater losses at various stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption. A recent report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) says about one-third of all food produced is lost worldwide.
Our immediate concern is the edible food that is not consumed and is dumped in garbage bins daily. Discarded food makes up more than one-third of garbage generated annually.
According to a local solid wastage management source, Malaysians waste up to 8,000 tonnes or eight million kilogrammes of food daily, a quantity that can feed six million people. It is estimated that of this huge quantity, more than 3,000 tonnes are preventable food waste as they were untouched and still edible.
Malaysians do not seem to take seriously the fact that they are the root cause of this criminal waste and the problem they create for waste management authorities and the environment. They don’t realise that with some commitment and prudence, they can get rid of their throwaway culture thereby saving money and instilling good habits among their children.
The “Mysavefood” programme, an initiative of the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry launched last year, appears to give us a ray of hope to minimise wastage.
A concerted effort by the stakeholders, including restaurants, hotels, food courts and food caterers, is vital for the success of the programme.
The road shows must begin in schools as the throwaway culture among children is widespread and equally disturbing. We must inculcate the importance of food and the need to conserve it among the young.
Legislation is necessary to compel traders like wholesalers, hypermarkets and supermarkets to donate soon-to-expire foodstuff to charity, and perhaps the Government can consider giving them tax incentives.
However, it is not necessary at this stage to put in place legislation to curb food waste. All that is needed is a commitment on the part of every individual to not waste food. This is something that is not difficult or beyond the capability or capacity of one to do.
Half the problem is solved if every right-thinking Malaysian ensures there are no leftovers in the plate when eating at home or elsewhere.
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