Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of UN has designated the theme of 2019 as "Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World". Past surveys show that, about one-third (about 1.3 billion tons) of the world's total food supply is lost or wasted, with a total value of over US$750 billion. FAO gives separate definitions to food loss and food waste. The former usually happens at the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the food chain, including the discards after the expiry date or due to improper packaging, while the latter refers to the discards of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels. FAO has set the goal for this year that 820 million hungry people in the world have food to eat. And the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 have set the goal of reducing food waste by 50% per person by 2030 on both the distribution and the consumption ends.
The waste of food in Taiwan is mostly on the consumption end. The concern of the African swine epidemic has limited the use of excess kitchen waste. The municipal solid waste (MSW) includes wastes from food factories, from the market, and from schools and restaurants, and household food wastes. Due to the high moisture content, low calorific value, and high salinity, most of these organic matters were collected and used for pig farming or for composting, as the economical and environmentally friendly solutions. Pig farming involves the risk of foot-and-mouth disease infection. Composting, on the other hand, requires long processing time and remote composting sites. The best solution is the use of kitchen waste disposal machines, which can reduce the amount to 80%. But these solutions are mainly to relieve the symptoms and not to address the root causes. The final solution should be adoption of the concept of material flow cost accounting (MFCA), to reduce the input of raw materials at the source.
A simple and frugal life style is suggested as the best solution:
1. Reduced consumption at the source:
The priority should be on "kitchen waste prevention". An important strategy is to promote the concept of cherishing the resources. Government agencies and schools should use all sorts of media and materials to arouse the awareness of people on why kitchen waste should be reduced and how it can be done. The awareness should be transferred to actions by each individual to cut the waste. Other methods include encouraging careful food purchase plans, taking only the amount that can be consumed, and for restaurants to make orders of adequate amount.
The leftovers that are produced after the efforts of consumption reduction can be treated with the strategy of redistribution of the food chain, so that the leftovers of A become the delicacies of B. This is to avoid resource misplacement and food waste. The concrete measures may include matching market, stores, local offices, communities, social welfare groups, etc. that promote the exchange of leftovers, food banks, and shared refrigerators.
Part of the leftover dishes from households, restaurants or banquets, and some not-good-looking or overripe fruit and vegetables can be processed based on "leftover food recipes". They are transformed into new products to re-enter the market or supermarket.
The inedible organic residues such as peels, bones, and flowers are recycled and reused as compost materials and for pig feeding. In addition, to maximize the value of kitchen waste, we will advocate for the building of kitchen waste bioenergy plants. The anaerobic fermentation method is adopted to have kitchen waste fermented to generate biogas for power generation. Remaining biogas residue and biogas slurry are reused as fertilizers, promoting a circular economy.
5. Re-education for the whole society and cooperation of various agencies: Many business operators interviewed express their willingness to reduce the amount of waste. What people usually hope for is high quantity at low prices. For instance, elementary school lunch has good quality and quantity at low prices. In surveys, students have no idea about nutrition and still favor junk food like fried chicken and French fries. Parents would complain if the food portion is considered too small. In Japan, however, the school lunch is designed by professional nutritionists to control the amount of calories taken and avoid excess nutrition and subsequent health problems. It is advised that people eat fresh food without too much processing for balanced nutrition.
6. Cooperation across ministries: For schools and communities where meals are delivered to but the waste cannot be properly disposed of, government subsidies should be provided for research and development of food waste disposal facilities. Every school or residential community can adopt the kitchen waste disposal facilities for on-site disposal to reduce the burden of removal and improper use of the food waste, and reduce carbon emissions. Leftovers can be given to disadvantaged children to bring home or can be disposed of on-site as composts to grow vegetables and flowers. These are indeed good educational practice, but would require cross-ministerial cooperation. The schools would require the administrative support of the Ministry of Education, the subsidies for equipment from the Environmental Protection Administration, the industrial promotion effort from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and technical research and development from the Ministry of Science and Technology.
There are many successful cases of factory waste treatment overseas:
For example: Mondelez International, which produces Cadbury and Toblerone, uses only part of the cocoa plant to make chocolate, and uses the otherwise discarded parts to develop peripheral snacks, such as CaPao, a new brand of sweet snacks made from the sweet pulps in the cocoa pods.
AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer produces 1.4 million tons of beer dregs every year. Aside from being sold at low prices as cattle feed, AB InBev donated 600 pounds of beer dregs from its Newark Brewery in New Jersey to RISE Products, a start-up in New York, to produce flour using beer pulps as raw materials.
Reducing kitchen waste is the job of everyone: the industry, the academia, the government, and the individuals. An ancient poem has it "Hoeing the crops at noon, sweat drips down the soil. Who knows that every grain of our meal, comes after hard toil.” To help everyone cherish the food and practice the circular economy, so no one is starved anymore, we should cherish this land even more as there is only one earth.