Food that can feed 2 million people a day ends up in landfills

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are continuing to waste food that, if properly handled, can be used to feed millions.

About 15,000 tonnes of the 38,000 tonnes of waste generated daily by Malaysians is food waste, says a report by Channel NewsAsia (CNA).

“About 8,000 tonnes, nearly 60% of food waste that is being generated, is avoidable food waste,” Dr Mohd Pauze Mohamed Taha, deputy CEO (Technical) of SWCorp, told CNA. SWCorp is a government agency dealing with solid waste.

He said 3,000 tonnes of the food waste that ended up in landfills daily was edible. This amount could have fed about two million people, he added.

And this food waste, SWCorp found, could increase by up to 50% during festive periods.

The CNA report quoted Hayati Ismail, director of the Food Aid Foundation, as saying: “In Malaysia, we have an abundance of food – we see food everywhere – everywhere we go we expect a big feast. So it does not click in our mind that there are people who aren’t eating.

“Here we are listening to stats that obesity rates are very high. At the same time, undernourishment is also an issue. So when there’s (3000 tonnes of wasted edible food), there should not be undernourishment in this country.”

Hayati’s Food Aid Foundation works to salvage and redistribute food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

“The number one source of food waste is domestic waste, from the household. Second is the pasar malam (night markets) and Ramadan bazaars. Third is waste from the food courts, then comes the food and beverage sector,” she was quoted as saying.

She said food manufacturers, too, contributed to this by throwing away products whose shelf life was expiring.

Hayati told CNA: “When I started volunteering at soup kitchens in 2014, there were only 180 people in a line. But now there are 600 more people queuing up for food – and they’re not all homeless. So of all the food we have, this is where the food should go to.”

The report quoted Dr Mohd Pauze as saying: “When the amount of waste increases, the cost of managing it increases and at the same time we have to provide space in landfills.”

Also, food that ends up in landfills decomposes and emits gases such as methane which have an impact on climate change and global warming.

The report noted that the government had introduced a MYSaveFood programme – partnering with the likes of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and SWCorp – to educate and encourage Malaysians on food wastage.

Hayati said the education programme was beginning to have an impact.