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24 September, 2020 07:25:38 PM
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Food waste: A devastating delicacy

Food waste produced at the consumer level is a result of socially coordinated practices and daily activities such as frequency of shopping, eating routines and meal planning
Ulfat Tahseen & Md Saidul Islam
Food waste: A devastating delicacy

In the world of scarcity, almost one-third of the food produced globally are wasted or lost, from farm to dinner plates, leaving troubled social and environmental legacies. Wasting food is a devastating delicacy when over fifty thousand people are dying every day around the world due to hunger and hunger-related diseases. According to a recent FAO report, “this food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains.”

Currently, the world’s population is 7.8 billion and it’s continually increasing, estimated to reach around 10 billion in 2050. As such, the total food demand is also rising. In a world of resource scarcity and environmental vulnerability complicated largely by climate change and the recent pandemic, meeting these increased demands in a sustainable manner is a real challenge. These demands can be met through the increase of food supplies alongside the diminishing of food wastage. Each year, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste is being produced globally, which can be translated roughly to a third of the total amount of food that is being produced specifically for human consumption. The amount produced has been estimated to be around 1 trillion USD.

There are many critical implications of food waste. Food waste fuels the social predicament of hunger. The amount of food that is being wasted would be sufficient enough to feed and sustain every undernourished individual around the world. Alongside the increase of food waste, the global population facing the deprivation of food chronically is also rising. In fact, consumer-level food waste in industrialized countries, which has been measured to 222 million tonnes, has almost reached the sum net production of food in Sub Saharan Africa, a total of 230 million tonnes.

Industrialized countries possess a high concentration of food waste, where approximately 40% of the total food waste is generated at consumer and retail levels. This is due to the trend of growing income as well as cultural change, which urges consumers towards diversified greater quantities of high-valued crops and animal products.

Food waste produced at the consumer level is a result of socially coordinated practices and daily activities such as frequency of shopping, eating routines and meal planning. However, food waste is also prevalent in developing countries, in the beginning of the supply chain, due to inefficiencies in, for example, harvesting, technologies and infrastructure.

Alongside the humanitarian issues, food waste also poses great environmental concerns. When food is wasted, the components and systems that were utilized in the supply chain are also wasted. Water and energy is lost throughout the process, during stages such as growing, harvesting, packaging and transporting food products. Agriculture alone accounts for up to 70 percent of the world’s use of water, using around half of the habitable land on earth. Food waste therefore means a vast waste of water and other resources. Although around 70-80 percent of all waste are recyclable, only a small fraction of the wasted food is recycled and the rest is disposed into landfills, where it decomposes and produces a greenhouse gas, methane, which is more hazardous than carbon dioxide.

In Singapore, for example, about 10 percent of its total produced waste is food waste and only 18 percent of that is recycled, and the rest is sent for incineration at waste-to-energy plants. Over the last decade, Singapore’s generated food waste has grown by 20 percent, and in 2019 it produced 744 million kilograms of food waste. In a recent study conducted by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), it has been found that each household produces food waste equivalent to an estimated S$258 and in summation of all households, that amounts to about S$342 million as food waste.

As more food is wasted, more food must be sourced in order to meet food demands, which places Singapore’s food security in a difficult position considering that over 90 percent of its food supply is imported. According to the SEC, Singapore imports about two million tonnes of food, of which almost 400,000 tonnes is lost as food waste. As sources of food are being more frequently utilized alongside resources needed to dispose the waste, Singapore’s carbon footprint also increases. Given that Singapore is a relatively small country, a little island located in Southeast Asia, the increasing amount of food waste strains its disposing resources. More facilities that aids in the disposal of waste need to be constructed, which is troublesome and unsustainable for a country with a scarce amount of land.

There are many methods of food waste reduction that can be applied throughout the supply chain. As food waste and loss generated at earlier stages is primarily a consequence of inefficiencies present within food supply chains, such as weak infrastructure, poor technology and skills, flaws within harvesting, storage and transportation systems, investment and improvements in these components will aid the reduction of food waste. Reducing the number of sources will promote decreased food waste and diminish environmental consequences by reducing the energy used and pollution generated through the stages of food production.

At the consumer level of the supply chain, food waste can be minimized through altering consumer behavior such as purchasing only the necessary quantity of food through implementation of grocery lists and meal plans. Moreover, composting is a popular method of reducing food waste at the consumer and farming level. It utilizes the decomposing properties in organic matter to recycle certain organic materials to produce compost, which can be used to fertilize soil to grow plants and other crops as well as enhance quality of water. Composting allows recycling of food waste, converting it into nutrients for soil alongside directly reducing the amount of food waste that is discarded into landfills and is incinerated.

Referring back to the humanitarian issue regarding hunger and undernourishment, food waste can be used to tackle the problem by collecting unwanted food that is unspoiled and donating it to individuals and families in need. The redistribution of food would provide support and nourishment to communities and individuals in both developing and developed countries. In addition, excess food can also be donated as provision for animals. Furthermore, through redistribution, less food waste is accumulated in landfills and as a result, there would be decreased costs and environmental implications.

 

The writers are currently based in Singapore. They can be contacted via email: [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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