The Straits Times: Cut food waste, redistribute extra food, say experts
An inter-ministry committee was set up last week to look at the country’s of food security, and experts have suggested methods like educating consumers, rewards, community efforts, food banks, using high-vegetable diet and many more to bring down the percentage of food waste (currently 10%) generated in Singapore, The Straits Times reports.
Cut food waste, redistribute extra food, say experts
Cut food waste during packaging and preparation and redistribute spare food, say experts who have weighed in on the Government’s announcement of a new committee that will look into food waste and security.
Food is often wasted during packaging because customers want unblemished produce, said sustainability researcher Kua Harn-Wei.
To solve this, he pointed to initiatives like Britain’s Waste Resources and Action Programme, a non-government scheme that works with supermarkets to educate consumers and develop packaging to lengthen the shelf life of fresh vegetables. It also gets food and beverage outlets to offer smaller portion sizes.
Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond suggested the committee find out which industries are the biggest generators of food waste and reward them for cutting down, or conduct surprise audits.
The inter-ministry committee was announced last week by Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, who said that with Singapore’s reliance on food imports, the Republic needs to look at how to secure its food supply.
He did not have more details.
There could be better food redistribution and recycling, Dr Kua said, such as through food banks and other community efforts.
Technology, too, could help nudge people into throwing away less: Last year, a South Korean pilot programme used radio-frequency identification chips to weigh bags of food waste and charge customers by how much they threw away. It cut food waste by 25 per cent.
Singapore generated 675,500 tons of food waste, or 10 per cent of its overall waste by weight, last year. The bulk of that was incinerated rather than recycled for biogas or fertiliser. Contamination is one reason. Nanyang Technological University’s business school associate professor Josephine Lang, who has written on food waste management here, pointed out that in food courts, there is a need to separate food waste from other materials such as styrofoam plates and plastic utensils before it can be recycled.
In 2010, the National Environment Agency studied the costs and benefits of food waste recycling, and found that waste collection and processing at a centralised food-waste facility were not cost-effective.
But, a spokesman said: ‘These costs could decrease with economies of scale, better technologies, more efficient operation and improved waste segregation.’ On-site food-waste composting machines are one way to get around high collection and processing costs, and are used at some premises like hotels.
While cutting food waste is one means of improving food security, another means is diversifying food sources. Agricultural research is one route Singapore is taking. Last year, the National Research Foundation said it would invest up to $10 million over five years into disease-resistant rice, while the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Food Fund gives projects up to $2 million apiece over three years.
Another way is to preserve the traditional low-meat, high-vegetable diet of Asia, suggested Mr Zhang Hongzhou, a senior analyst at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in a paper earlier this year. Meat production is grain-intensive – a kilo of beef takes 7kg of grain to produce, while 1kg of pork requires 4kg of grain.
Community gardens, too, would not only be an extra food source, but would also raise public awareness – such as through teaching people how to turn vegetable waste into compost for gardening, said Mr Raymond.
Image from the lulu bird