Focus on reducing food waste, Putrajaya told

Malaysians generate about 16,000 tonnes of food waste on a daily basis. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A food waste specialist has urged the government to address the issue of wasted food in the country, amid reports that Malaysians generate over 16,000 tonnes of such waste each day.

Mae Ooi, the co-founder of Mentari Alam EKO, a company dedicated to solving problems associated with food waste, said the government should organise programmes to create awareness about the issue and introduce technology to help consumers cut down on waste.

Based on her tours across the country, she said, many people are unaware that food waste is recyclable and can be used as a resource.

“Most of them are clueless that we can segregate the waste and put it to use later.

“They can recycle plastic and paper, but they have zero idea about food waste. As a result, they end up throwing everything in the bin.”

According to the Solid Waste Corporation, Malaysians generate 16,687.5 tonnes of food waste on a daily basis, which is enough to feed 12 million people three times a day. Food waste reportedly increases by 15-20% during festival seasons.

Ooi said food waste from urban households forms a huge chunk of total waste.

This is in contrast to rural areas, where such waste is usually fed to livestock.

“They don’t spend a lot on food, unlike in urban areas where there is more waste due to more surplus food,” she said.

The biggest challenge, she told FMT, is to figure out ways to recycle food waste and stop it from reaching the landfills straightaway.

About half of the waste in landfills is organic waste, with plastic (14%), paper (15%), glass (3%), metal (4%), wood (4%), textile (3%), rubber (1%) and other materials (7%) forming the other half.

“By 2020, there will be enough food waste to fill 16 KLCC buildings,” Ooi said.

She acknowledged that it would be expensive to tackle the issue but said it would save a lot of money in the long run if Malaysians could cut down on food waste.

She suggested that the government invest more in technology and introduce food waste composters in housing areas, aside from ensuring stringent environmental standards.

Food waste could also be regulated as is done in South Korea, where people are charged according to the trash they generate and dispose of, she said.

“If you have 1kg of food waste, you’ll be charged accordingly, but Malaysia could have its own technology to deal with the matter,” she added.

“We would encourage the use of composters to reduce food waste. Food waste can be reduced by up to 80% within just 24 hours, and transformed into a bio-organic compost that you can use in different ways.

“It will go back to the earth, for your garden’s usage, to nourish plants and herbs, and to promote green landscaping as well. Not only will it help the earth, we will also be able to progress in our efforts to achieve zero waste.”

The most important factor, she said, is attitude.

“Nothing will change if people don’t change their habits to be more organised and help reduce food waste.”