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  • Mei Anne Foo

3 Ways To Reduce Food Waste

Helping your bin to battle the bulge.

dishes, takeout, food waste

Food is an inextricable part of culture and identity, even during a worldwide lockdown. We appreciate the simplicity of pizza being delivered to our doorsteps, enjoy the complex whiffs of truffle fries on a take-out, and indulge in homemade gyozas, empanadas, samosas, perogies or any of your choice dumpling. We’d hate to see these wonderfully prepared dishes go to waste, right?

Yet, by the time you are done reading that first paragraph, about $200,000 worth of food would have been thrown out. That’s how much we waste on a global scale each minute.

Every year, food manufacturers, restaurants, hotels, malls, markets, hawker centres, schools, and households discard more more than $1.2 trillion worth of food.

What a huge waste. But the real issue isn’t the sheer waste itself. The real predicament lies in the delusion that because food is compostable that there’s no harm in sending them to landfills.

In fact, food waste around the world contributes to 6.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To put that into perspective, if food waste was seen as a country, it would be the third worst greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US. See, when you toss out that extra helping of rice you couldn’t finish and it ends up in a landfill, piled up in a nosh mountain, it doesn’t decompose as nature would intend it to. Instead, starved of oxygen, it breaks down anaerobically, producing methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

So, besides reducing fossil fuel usage, reducing food wastage is also one of the most substantive things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Still, more than a third of all food produced end up in the trash. Why is that?

1) Expiry dates are a manufacturer’s best guess so see and smell before tossing that taco away.

A big reason why food gets wasted is confusion around expiry dates. There is this strong misunderstanding that expiry dates are an indication of food safety. In fact, expiry dates are usually simply the manufacturer’s best guess on when the food product is of the highest quality.

Therefore, consumers tend to throw away food, which might be fine to consume. This consumer sentiment also has knock-on effects on retailers and manufacturers who will throw away food if it is too close to the expiry date as consumers would not buy these food products.

2) Stop buying more than you need. That “‘buy three get one free” deal isn't worth it if you're going to throw that free one away anyway.

Poor buying habits mean that consumers generally tend to buy more than they need, which leads to a lot of food waste for products which have short shelf life. Milk being an example. Also, promotions by retailers that incentivise buying larger quantities compound this issue of overbuying.

Thus, the first step is to reduce waste from the get-go; by shopping to a list, preferably one created from a meal plan, and only buying what is needed. It all seems easy enough. But those mouthwatering “‘buy three get one free” deals continue to pervert our plans. Retailers should remove promotions that offer more food at cheaper prices to help reduce overbuying.

3) Buy ugly.

Instead, discounts should be reserved only for produce that are aesthetically damaged but have no other deficiencies in terms of quality and taste, telling us that we shouldn’t be prejudiced and “buy ugly”. This is particularly so for irregularly shaped fruits and vegetables that are just as good but look a little different.

Apeel Sciences, avacados
Apeel Avocados

It is good to know that some world leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators are also thinking differently, in hopes to curb food waste. Bill Gates- and the Rockefellers-backed Apeel Sciences is a company based in California that’s making edible coating products for avocados, citrus and other types of fruit so that they can last twice as long as usual. Founder James Rogers and his team of scientists created the tasteless edible coating using plant materials, saying “40 percent of food grown today goes to waste so we challenged ourselves to work with nature to find a solution.”

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