Fighting Food Waste in an Era of Waste

By: Myat Hsu Khine

According to FAO’s most recent estimates (2019), the amounts of food either lost or wasted range from 5–6 percent in Australia and New Zealand, to 20 – 21 percent in Central and Southern Asia. “The Asia and Pacific Region continues to lose and waste too much food. Government and non-state actors, working together, must deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 12, which aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030,” said Anthony Bennett, FAO Senior Food Systems Officer at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Think of it as a huge shame if you throw away all that food you just bought it at the grocery as it starts to spoil. It’s a tragedy to see those fresh fruits and vegetables gone bad as you have bought too much without knowing how it could be used. How can this take place? You can prevent it from happening. In this article, we explore some of the reasons why this food waste occurs, and how it can be better managed to prevent it from happening.

We will also highlight some local organizations working to reduce Asia’s food waste and environmental footprint, reduce hunger and malnutrition, and tips to start a food waste initiative on your own and build a more sustainable planet. Research shows that reducing food waste could have an impact on climate change. So how can technology help here? Some determined food enthusiasts are now leading to change the way the world thinks about food.

Impact of Food Waste on Our Planet

One-third of all food produced worldwide ends up in landfills. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food. Food waste is a major contributor to items ending up in landfills, which release methane into the atmosphere. In addition, food waste costs money and water. And it’s not just causing environmental harm—it’s also causing financial harm to consumers. Food losses and food waste from all food systems leads to an increase in Greenhouse Gasses. Food waste is a fight we all need to join. Building a sustainable food system requires us to waste less food and shift towards a plant-based diet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted existing gaps in food systems that lead to food loss and waste, such as unreliable infrastructure for storage and transportation, and access to electricity. The Southeast Asia region also faces challenges in terms of logistics for local producer-to-consumer markets and scaling-up of networks for recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food for human consumption. Food waste is more than just a one-dimensional problem. Wasting food is equivalent to wasting water, energy, and electricity which are vital in producing food.

How Southeast Asian startups contribute as food heroes

In Europe, vegans, plant-based diets and food waste rescue applications have been popular for a while, but in Southeast Asia, we are still adapting to the future foods and processes. Covid-19 pandemic seems to alert southeast Asian to focus on food waste fighting as the majority of the food chains, hotels, and restaurants meet low purchasing power because of lockdown across the regions. Encountering unpredictable food waste different from normal routine enlightens the business owner to initiate the alternative way to fight food waste in the pandemic era. As a result, most of the food waste fighting startups gain popularity and the general public is starting to show interest in contributing as food warriors. Here are some of the emerging start-ups raising awareness about food wastage and we could probably be part of it as a food hero in the era of waste.

What a Waste (Malaysia) 

WaW is a social enterprise to reduce and fight food waste as best as possible by implementing new strategies such as collecting food from communities that would otherwise be thrown away and donating to people in need of food. The WaW advocates collaborate with multiple hotels, restaurants, food distribution chain, companies and even weddings to rescue food waste and distribute to underprivileged people for food security.


Yindii (Thailand)

Yindii is a marketplace where you can buy and sell excellent unsold food. Unlike other traditional delivery apps, we could reserve food in happy hour with a discount and pick up or get delivered when the business hours of the restaurants and hotels have ended. The intriguing fact of Yindii is their ultimate surprise box. As most of the food chains could not predict which food would be left at the end of the day, Yindii create a business plan to presale the surprise box in huge discount during the day time, restaurants pack with different types of surplus food at the evening and the customers could choose the option of pick up or deliver door to door. Majority of the restaurants and hotels on Yindii platform are such a big brand, which could somehow satisfy the customers about purchasing high end quality food with reasonable prices. This is the major selling point of Yindii during this unprecedented time and the business is underway on expanding across the southeast asia region.


Lumitics (Singapore)

The startup’s patented image recognition technology and sensors are used to weigh and identify what restaurants and kitchens throw out. The device can connect to any conventional kitchen trash can and generate data over time to detect food waste trends and provide cooks with actionable ideas to reduce food waste. It could help hospitality and food and beverage (F&B) organizations to save money in a sustainable way with the help of technology.


Plant based diet as an alternative way food waste

Apart from being engaged with the food waste fighting apps, eating a plant based diet could also help reduce food waste when eating a bulk of your food from the vegetable group. They have a longer shelf life and keep longer in the fridge which you could avoid to get rid of the rotted vegetables within a short period. In the near future, meat production might become the biggest threat to the future of the planet because of the massive use of energy in the said process. Reducing food waste and changing dietary habits could cut anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the food system by as much as half. Plant-rich diets can help significantly keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, new research suggests.

Above mentioned data proves that reducing food waste is not just about grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Individuals should be conscious not to be squandering food on a regular basis at home and learn how not to throw out the food. We should favor food donations, put a zero-waste lifestyle on the fast track. By doing so, we could effectively reduce our food waste and be quicker to achieve the SDGs goals for a better future.


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