Dispose Mind Waste, Not Food

If you remember your last restaurant visit and compare that with overall statistics of food wastage in India alone, you would want to go back and lick your plate clean – and maybe even the utensils, the food was served in. But, the lack of awareness around the issue and interrelated issues, such as malnutrition, poverty and food shortage, is minimal and hence a small contributor to the larger picture of food waste and the aforesaid issues. But, food waste alone incurs huge monetary losses to industries and mankind, in general.

Food waste primarily revolves around any form of food, raw or cooked, used or unused – discarded or intended so. Professional bodies and governments alike, further diversify the definitions to various categories and implications such as the kind of food waste, the form it is produced/generated by and materials and source of waste. The dramatic impact that food waste can have on a particular nation, in terms of economic and social perspectives, is enormous especially in larger countries like the USA, UK and India – depending on the population and food consumption. In 1918, the per capita annual food waste output in North America was estimated as 100-200 pounds. Though the statistics may hold very little or negligible relevance today, they were an indicator of the trends to follow. And, according to recent reports, close to 6.7 billion tonnes of food (purchased and edible) is wasted in the UK every year, incurring losses worth 10.2 billion pounds, translating close to 250-400 pounds per household.

Of the various countries trying to tackle the issues of food waste and their respective losses, Japan seems to be doing very well via the administrative system. Against India’s all-encompassing laws for food waste, Japan has various laws pertaining to the different causes of food wastage, such as Container & Packaging Recycling Law’, ‘Food Wastes Recycling Law’ and even a ‘Law on promoting Green Purchase’, enabling industries and agriculturists to look towards effective uses of resources and also join the eco drive – which needs more initiatives like these. Various scientists and environmentalists believe, stringent laws, effective administration and self responsibility are the more vital points which can be looked at for grass root changes to come about, especially in country like India, where the maximum food waste comes from the agricultural waste sector. A report submitted by Rabo India Finance, a private consultancy firm, in 2007 to the government of India estimates a whopping 58,000 crores worth of rupees are lost due to agricultural food waste, alone.

However, food waste can be tackled in more effective ways, with the help of various schematic and planned methods implemented by the governments and private firms simultaneously. Food waste, like other waste can be dumped but could also be used for various other purposes such as feeding animals or be biodegraded by various methods such as a composting and used for soil enrichment. Though a lot of the food waste caused due to the food processing can be difficult to reduce without affecting the quality of the finished product, certain incentives must be provided by the administrative bodies, to look to reduce this form of food waste. Also, a lot of food waste is created post harvest due to the lack of infrastructural facilities such as cold chain provisions, transportation and proper storage facilities. However, with a growth in the retail market and its demand, a lot of foreign companies have shown interest in agri-based and processed food products.

So, without getting into the various nitty-gritty details of food waste management and disposal, the next time there is food left over at your restaurant visit – get it packed and give it someone who needs it. After all, the state of Indian poverty makes up the bulk of the undressed social causes that plague our nation.

Another way could be when you go grocery shopping and pick up groceries that would last a week or so, think whether you would actually need that many, considering if you fall short of them – the grocery is not going anywhere, unlike the food wasted that may go to the bin. And though it is easier said than done, the easiest way to reduce the amount of food wasted is to reduce the amount of food created.

Naman Saraiya

[Image courtesy: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/05/22/health/food_533.jpg]