Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Think. Eat. Save: Avoid food wastage

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In conjunction with the World Environment Day 2013, the Consumer’s Association of Penang urges consumers to end food wastage. This year’s theme for World Environment Day celebration is Think. Eat. Save, which is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages reducing our food print.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, one in every seven people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of five die daily from hunger.

Last year in Penang Island alone, food waste made up about 45% of the 288,377 tones of solid waste collected from domestic and commercial areas, according to the Penang Island Municipal Council. This is about 355,000 kg of food being thrown away daily in Penang Island.

Who are the food waste culprits?  They are households, eateries (restaurants, hotels, hawkers or commercial establishments serving food), food retailers, and markets.

In a survey conducted by CAP in several restaurants in Penang, the owners of the restaurants revealed that about 5% to 10% of cooked unsold food thrown away each day. At the same time, the percentage of food ordered by customers and not finished eaten which ends as waste is 10%.

CAP interviewed about 10 restaurant owners regarding food wastage.  Some of the restaurant owners who also provide catering services admit that 15% to 20% of food served during festivals, buffet, wedding celebration, birthday parties and gatherings are thrown because of poor planning and poor turn up for the event.  Malaysians too have the habit of piling their plate with food and eventually not finish eating what they have piled.  This shows their sheer greed for food.

Based on projections by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in 2020 Malaysians would be generating 31,500 tonnes of solid waste daily, out of which if 45% is food waste we would be throwing away more than 14,000 tonnes of food daily. This comes up to an estimated 5 million tonnes of food waste disposed in year 2020.

FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost.  Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts. If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost.

The global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.

Based on the statistic above, it is high time that we wage a war against food wastage as it is one of the easiest ways to prevent our natural resources from being exhausted for food production.  CAP urges each individual to play an important role by pledging to not waste food.  Each parent must inculcate in their children the value of appreciating every morsel of food at their children’s very early age. Schools too should play their role by teaching and discussing food wastage.  Malaysians should develop the attitude of “Loving Food and Hating Waste”.  CAP too urged the relevant authority to make food wastage a punishable crime.

Press Statement – 4 June 2013