By Nudge Sustainability Reporter James Moo
Food waste has been a perpetual problem in the developed world. While many people in other countries have been facing food shortages, people in major cities of developed countries are throwing away vast amounts of food - just sheerly not being able to finish it. Each year, an amount of 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted.
In Singapore, much has gone into the discussion on how to best salvage the leftover food. The amount of food waste reached 788,600 tons in 2014. Only less than a fifth of this waste was recycled. Recently there has been a development in Singapore in order to deal with this problem. Collected food waste is processed with biomass generators in order to power electrical stations. With this method, energy that is stored in food materials can be released. If the segregation of food waste was to be accomplished properly for the production of biogas before sending in for incineration, it could result in the generation of more electricity. This co-digestion process can produce 30 % more energy than directly incinerating food waste. Therefore, efforts to educate people about the separation of food waste is currently being advocated. Also, the collection from premises such as shopping malls, schools, hospitals and office buildings are done at a pilot-testing stage.
However, prior to that, one must note the enormous energy investments that have been pumped into producing these agricultural products in the first place. For an apple, it needs 1.67 kWh of energy before it can be harvested. For meat 4.4 kWh is needed before it arrives in our supermarkets. Just to put things into perspective, 1 kWh can charge one’s phone more than 250 times.
Thus, one should have a measure of what can be consumed. Additionally, food waste adds to our grocery bill. In Singapore, people generally buy more food than what they need, in the “worry” that family members might not have enough to eat, often resulting in waste. The National Environmental Agency of Singapore has produced a campaign on equating food wastage and potential savings that can be achieved. Buying what one needs to prepare meals and finishing it will be the way to go. Customized education materials are also made available to reduce such food wastage at home. It helps in improving planning skills during meal preparations.
How do we allocate the amount of food that one may need, so as to minimize wastage of these resources and make sure that it can be channeled to where it is needed most? Perhaps, this is the most pressing question that we city dwellers need to think about.