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Tackling Food Waste - Can Governments Change Things?

Akshay Shetty

Food waste is one of the dumbest problems we have created. $1 trillion worth of food gets wasted every year. The issue of global hunger isn’t due to a lack of food. We produce enough food to nourish every person on this planet. The problem is we waste approximately 40% of it. At the end of it, we are left with issues of global warming, water supply, hunger, sustainability and an enormous amount of money atrophied on resources invested in producing that food. 40% of wastage occurs at post-harvest and processing levels in developing countries. In developed countries, the same amount of wastage occurs at retail and consumer levels. Global food waste per year comprises of 30% cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oilseeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish. Here are a few things governments could implement to reduce food waste.

Working with food rescue organisations

Several organisations are working on a local and international level who help rescue food and provide it to the needy. Governments can work alongside NGOs, providing them with monetary support and infrastructure needed to achieve their goals. It will help decrease food waste and address the problem of hunger in countries where the rate of undernourishment is high.

In 2017, the Australian Government decided to invest $1.2 million in food rescue organisations like FoodShare, Secondbite & Food Bank Australia for the next two years to curb food waste. The Government has set a target to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

Infrastructure & Support

In 2011, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that annual post-harvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa exceeded 30 per cent of total food production. Governments around the world need to provide farmers with the infrastructure and support to reduce post-harvest food waste. Developing countries need to focus on providing the farmers with technologies to monitor and control their harvest. They can also provide farmers with low-interest loans to build better storage facilities to preserve their produce.

In the meantime, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) came up with Farm Storage Facility Loan Program providing low-cost loan to farmers building storage facilities.

Creating Better Laws

Most of our food is covered in plastic. The growing amount of food waste generates high amounts of plastic waste which is not recyclable. Governments can introduce various laws to curb food waste, such as:

Ban the use of plastic in the hospitality industry and supermarkets

Mandate recycling in the food and hospitality industry

Ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food

Incentivise companies and startups helping reduce food waste

E.g., In 2016, the French Government passed a law which no longer allows supermarkets to throw away unsold food. Recycling is also mandatory for all businesses in France.

Power of Media

Government organisations can leverage the power of social media to educate customers on the importance of reducing food waste. Education plays an important role to address the issue of food waste as the highest amount of food waste gets produced by the end consumers. Providing people with global numbers and raising awareness of the environmental effects of food waste can go a long way in generating quick results. It is also important to educate customers on the difference between various dates used in the packaging of food products. A great example of media influence happens in Denmark. The Danish Government actively runs advertising campaigns educating consumers about the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.

Creating Secondary Markets

Supermarkets reject a fair amount of fruits and vegetables due to their imperfect shapes. Even though more and more supermarkets like TESCO are encouraging the sale of such fruits and vegetables, not everyone is following their footsteps. However, to tackle this issue of post-harvest waste governments can create a secondary farmers market. Consumers can directly buy these products at a lower price. Moreover, it will be easier to promote such outlets as a high number of people are switching to organic and chemical-free products. This will help solve the problem of return on investment for the farmers. It will also provide quality products to consumers at a better price.

Building Recycling Plants & Biogas Plants

Having instant access to recycling plants in the community will generate awareness among consumers. It will also make them more aware of the types of bags or utensils they use in their daily lives. Moreover, recycling waste will also reduce the carbon emission created due to landfills. Governments can set up biogas plants within small local communities, which will also generate electricity. These types of solutions could be extremely useful in developing nations where many of the rural areas have minimal or no access to power at all.

For instance, Singapore launched a pilot project building on-site system to treat food waste near hawker centres. When it comes to recycling Scotland means pure business. Over 80% of the households in Scotland have access to recycling facilities. Although on the contrary, only 55% of the household recycle waste.

Akshay Shetty