Wasteful ways of Malaysian gluttons

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is a food heaven – but it is also one giant food dump.

It generates about 15,000 tonnes of food and kitchen waste daily – enough to fill 7.5 football fields or to feed 7.5 million people a day.

This is a hike from 2011, where about 930 tonnes of unconsumed food were thrown away every day. And that was double the 2009 figure.

In Kuala Lumpur alone, the waste comes up to about 3,000 tonnes a day while the Consumers Association of Penang claimed that the island alone generated 355 tonnes of food waste every day.

Of the amount wasted, between 10% and 15% comprised unconsumed and expired food.

At 10-course Chinese dinners for example, 30% of food goes to waste.

There is a silver lining, though. People are opting for fewer courses at Chinese dinners and with hoteliers reporting fewer people wasting food at buffets.

Waste management specialist Dr Theng Lee Chong said that hosts were opting for lesser quantity of food and reducing the number of courses to seven or eight.

“But in the long run, we still need to educate Malaysians on the need to not waste food.

“We should only take what we can consume,” he said.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel had called on Malaysians to make the “right lifestyle choice” and to reduce food waste and losses in line with the campaign of the World Environmental Day today.

With the theme “Think. Eat. Save”. Reduce Your Foodprint – the campaign draws attention to the high volume of perfectly edible produce that never make it from the farm to the fork.

“The campaign encourages us to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices we make and empowers us to make informed decisions,” he said.

United Nations undersecretary-general and UN Environmental Programme executive director Achim Steiner said that at least a third of everything that was grown on the planet is lost between the field and the consumer.

“It is an ethical, economic and environmental issue given the enormous waste of energy, water, fertilisers and other inputs as a result of food that is produced but never eaten.

“Each one of us can do something about this and that’s why, through Think. Eat. Save. Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, we invite people across the world to join us to raise awareness and to take practical action whether in your home, your farm, in the supermarket, in a canteen, a hotel or anywhere else where food is prepared and consumed,” he said in a statement.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk R. Ramalingam Pillai lamented that food wastage was quite rampant in Malaysia.

He attributed this to the attitude of Malaysians, most of whom he said took food for granted.

“In other parts of the world, there are people going without food and here we are throwing food away,” he added.




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