Food waste remains one of the biggest global challenges. Globally, 1 out of 9 people has no access to food.
Meanwhile, in Asia, up to 40% of food is lost after harvesting, handling and storage—never making it to the shops at all. Further, over half of Southeast Asia's landfills comprise food waste, which generates millions of tonnes of methane gas every year that contribute to global warming.
So it’s clear to us that tackling food waste is crucial for addressing global hunger and saving the planet. This week, why not celebrate the season in a more eco-friendly manner as we help the planet, by starting with what’s on our plates.
Reducing our foodprints,
Growing appetite to tackle food waste - In 2020, Singapore generated 665,000 tonnes of food waste, making up about 11% of the total waste generated in the country. Nonetheless, more hotels and airlines are putting sustainability on their priority list. From 2024 onwards, owners and occupiers of commercial and industrial premises in Singapore that generate large amounts of food will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment, according to new legislation.
Turning food waste into ‘surprise boxes’ - In Thailand, where 64% of its 27.4 million tonnes of waste is made up of organic waste, an anti-food waste startup called Yindii launched an app to connect eco-conscious Bangkok residents with bakeries, supermarkets and restaurants. These businesses fill up their unsold inventory in “surprise boxes,” which customers can snap up at discounted prices of 50% to 80% off and get them delivered to their homes.
Technology as a way forward - Experts say more private-public partnerships will be key to reducing food losses, where “enthusiastic small start-ups” can scale up with the help of technology and funding from the government, or work with big multinational corporations to plug the gaps. Another lucrative venture is “upcycling,” which refers to taking ingredients that would usually be thrown out and processing them into new high-quality, marketable products.
No place for ‘ugly food’? - One way organisations are trying to help reduce food waste is by upcycling food—using ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption. Some of this food is surplus, both on institutional and consumer levels, while other food wastes are known as “ugly” produce that doesn’t meet grocery store standards.
Ripe time for plant-based companies - For these reasons, some innovative companies in the plant-based food movement are embracing upcycling. Plant-based tech company Outcast Foods, for example, turns surplus fruit and vegetables from farmers, grocers and food manufacturers into vegan protein powders and vitamins.
A trend still budding - Much of the upcycling and food waste movement requires educating people about specific products and changing eating habits—and this isn’t always an easy job. Business leaders say food upcycling is in its early stages, but as society becomes more aware of the urgent need to tackle the global food crises, we can expect more brands and food companies to become part of the upcycling solution.
Apps to the food rescue - From a small base, food rescue is accelerating in Hong Kong, and a new anti-food-waste app, Phenix, was launched in Hong Kong early this year. Any surplus food cooked by the restaurant can be sold to users of apps like Phenix, where they can buy the food at discounted prices. Other apps help volunteers and charities donate unused food to the needy.
Counting on AI to take stock of inventory - Japan produces a massive 6 million tonnes of food waste every year—the most per capita in Asia. Now, Japanese retailers are using AI to monitor sales to reduce overstocking, check whether products have been damaged during shipping, and provide discounts on unsold food. Japan’s convenience chain Lawson, for instance, uses AI to estimate how much of the products for sale—from onigiri rice balls to egg and tuna sandwiches—may go unsold or fall short of demand.