There are environmental and social impacts of food surplus that you don't see, but these accumulate over time and can be the source of a huge problem. Here's what you can do to reduce food waste.
How much food is wasted in Singapore?
Food makes up one-tenth of all waste generated in the country. About 788,600 tonnes of food were discarded in 2014, and only 13% of that was recycled.
In fact, Singapore has seen a 1.5-fold increase in food waste in the past ten years. Yikes.
What causes food waste?
Food waste is found at every level of our food cycle – from production, distribution, retail to consumption. Reasons to trash food include spoilt food (due to improper storage or handling), discarding food (and leftovers) when cooking, inability to finish our share of food, and throwing away perfectly edible food because they are not visually appealing or do not meet industry specifications.
Interestingly, a survey conducted in Singapore last year showed that people are more likely to waste food at home than when eating out because they tend to buy more than what is eventually consumed.
What can I do to reduce food waste at home?
Every household can play a part in reducing food waste along our food cycle, from the fields right up to our plates. Here are some simple steps you can take.
1. Buy from the guy
Learn about food sources and find out how some of our food is grown or reared by visiting farms in Singapore.
Try Bollywood Veggies for fresh greens; Farmart Centre has a bit of everything, from eggs to live seafood and even exotic meats like crocodile parts. Or, visit a farmers' market to shop for locally made produce.
By purchasing food produced here instead of those imported from overseas, it helps to reduce the food wastage during transportation and storage.
2. Grow your own food
Better yet, grow your own food if you have space at home along your corridor, at the balcony or in the yard. You can start off by growing simple vegetables, herbs or fruits (or pandan and curry leaves, like my mom did) as it helps you to appreciate your food more and waste less.
Similarly, not needing to buy from the store would also help to decrease food waste during transportation and storage processes.
Find out how you can start urban farming in Singapore here.
3. Buy only what you need
Before buying groceries, make a shopping list to plan what to buy (remember to consider the food you already have at home).
It’s also good to come up with a weekly menu, so you can think about what you want to make for the coming week and include the ingredients in your list.
This would help to avoid buying more food than you need and curb the temptation to shop on impulse. Shoppers who buy in excess are likely not to eat the extra food before its expiry date and it ends up in the trash.
4. We mean, buy only what you really need
Choose food ingredients that can be used for several different dishes, or those that have a longer shelf life.
5. Prepare your food responsibly
Store and handle food properly at home so they will last longer. Check out these excellent in-depth tips on good storage practices here.
When cooking at home, plan a healthy diet and choose how much to eat each day, and it will help you to estimate the right amount of food portions or servings you need.
When dining out, you might want to ask about the food portion or number of dishes recommended for your group before placing your order. Whenever possible, bag any leftover food to bring home.
6. Reinvent leftovers
Not sure what to do with leftovers at home?
Take a step further and start composting at home if you are able to.
Your compost bin can include all veggie and fruit peel waste, coffee grinds, tea leaves, dried leaves, yard waste, and even paper (with not too much print on it).
More people are also making their own garbage enzyme from fruit and vegetable scraps to produce their very own household cleanser. Find out how to make your one here.
8. Don't bin it when you can still eat it
Have unused food items in your kitchen that you no longer want?
Alternatively, find out how to donate your unwanted food to the needy in Singapore here.
Food goes to waste all the time everywhere in the world. Can I REALLY make a difference?
In words of environmental activist Tristram Stuart, "We, the people, DO have the power to stop this tragic waste of resources if we regard it as socially unacceptable to waste food on a colossal scale."
By Muneerah Bee, last updated January 2017
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