by Edmund Sim
Food wastage is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in our society. The United States alone produced 133 billion pounds and 161 billion USD worth of food waste in 2010. Undoubtedly, these numbers will only rise worldwide with the increase in population in recent years. At first glance, one might not grasp the impacts that food wastage has on us and the place we call home. However, the reality is that it has grave consequences on us both economically and environmentally.
Every year, one-third of the world’s food is wasted. Money has to be spent on both producing these foods and clearing the waste that is produced. Furthermore, in the process of removing the waste by burning them, massive volumes of carbon dioxide are produced. This contributes to 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Putting it into perspective, if we view food wastage as a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China. Should we allow the greenhouse gases to slowly build up, global temperatures will continue to surge further due to the trapping of radiation in our atmosphere leading to climate change. Hence, it is important that we recognise the vast effects food wastage has on climate change which affects countries all over the world.
Closer to home, in Singapore more than 700000 tonnes of food waste is produced every year, and these numbers have been readily rising. From 2007 to 2017, we have experienced a massive 45 percent increase in food wastage from 5589000 tonnes to 810000 tonnes. We are producing waste at a rate that is difficult to keep up with, since Singapore is a small country with a lack of space for landfills and incinerators.
To prevent the food wastage situation from escalating, there are some organisations that have stepped up to reduce our food waste and one of the pertinent organisations is the Foodbank. Founded in 2012, FoodBank at its core serves to work with charity organisations and homes to provide them with dry rations and food to the less fortunate. They obtain these foods by collecting them from other organisations like FairPrice who have excess food that have not been sold. Hence, instead of throwing away tonnes of produce caused by “poor inventory management” and “cosmetic filtering by companies”, they can be redirected to those that are not able to afford these products. Foodbank has also partnered with DBS bank to set up a virtual foodbanking system, through an application that provides a virtual platform for corporate donors to donate their surplus food to Foodbank. This creates a more efficient and dynamic process of reducing food wastage as all the edible food is redistributed to those who need it.
So, what can we do to play our part? On a community level, we can start spreading awareness through word of mouth of the effects of food wastage and provide tips on how to prevent food waste. Food wastage competitions can also be set up to encourage people to compete in terms of who can reduce more food wastage. Non-governmental organisations can also aim to set up educational campaigns to begin educating the public of its importance and generate publicity for this movement. On an individual level, households can try to avoid buying large volumes of produce at one time but instead buy in smaller volumes to prevent the storage of food until it becomes expired. They can also try to make use of the Foodbank virtual foodbanking app to redirect their excess food.
The food waste problem right now is definitely not going to be solved anytime soon and its negative effects are going to be inevitably experienced in the long run. However, the silver lining in this is that we can try our best to search for new innovative ways to reduce the impacts of the food wastage problem by cutting down wastage by itself, be it on an organisational level, community level, or individual level. Hopefully, we can come together and unite to bring the change we want to see and save our environment one meal at a time.
Edmund is a recent graduate from Hwa Chong institution. He is passionate about helping those in need and helping wherever and whoever he can. He does tuition and volunteers at Willing hearts in the midst of serving his national service to give back to the community.