Here’s something that’ll hopefully change the way you look at food waste – and your role in it. :(
“Out of 809,800 tonnes of food waste generated in Singapore in 2017, 133,000 tonnes were recycled. This left 676,800 tonnes of food waste disposed of. This accounts for 19 per cent of total waste disposed, which is second only to plastic waste,” declares Daniel Tay, the co-founder of SG Food Rescue in Singapore.
Established in 2018, SG Food Rescue is run by an informal group of volunteers who carry out public programmes that help to collect, save, donate and deliver fresh, unsold, and/or disposed produce and food items for consumption.
According to Daniel, these food items go to the community, community fridges, soup kitchens and charity organisations that feed the needy, and to public campaigns to raise awareness on food waste. They also hold talks at companies and schools, and hold events to discuss the impact of food waste.
But Daniel isn’t done. “Another way of looking at it: Take every single person in Singapore (with an average weight of 70 kg) and put them all on a weighing scale. Multiply that by two. That’s equivalent to the amount of food waste generated in 2017. And it’s increasing every year.”
That’s a crazy figure
Especially since it doesn’t have to be that way. “There’s no reason why we should have any food waste going into incinerators in the first place,” he observes.
“I spent some time on a farm last year, and I was impressed to see that this low-tech farming community had zero food waste. Their food scraps and leftovers went to feed their chickens. The food that the chickens didn’t eat was eaten by ants and worms, which in turn were eaten by the chickens.
“The chickens produced eggs for the community, and the poop was used to fertilise the soil. Nothing was wasted. Nothing needed to be incinerated,” he concludes.
“If a low-tech farming community can do this, why can’t a high-tech country like Singapore?”
Why can’t we all, indeed?
Because wherever we are in the world, not just in Singapore, change starts with ourselves, and at home. We can be sensible and logical about it, actually. Daniel explains.
“Most important is to use food for the purpose for which it was made,” he says. Like his example above: “Food was grown and made for the purpose of feeding people first. After that, if the food can’t be used to feed people, it can be used to feed animals. If it can’t be used to feed animals, it can be used to feed the soil, from which new food can be grown. And if food can’t be used to feed the soil, it can be converted into energy.
“With this framework in mind, unwanted food can be redistributed to people who can use it. First, to be eaten.”
Daniel offers simple and creative ways to deal with our food waste and achieve all that. The good news? Anyone can do them. :)
#1 Share your blessings
“If we have unwanted food at home that’s edible, we can share it with our neighbours. It might be hard to go to your neighbour to give them food that you don’t want. It’s far, far easier to go to your neighbour and ask them to give you food that they don’t want.
“This can be fresh produce that they bought too much of. It can be frozen food that they can’t finish using before it spoils. It can be processed food that’s near or past its expiry date. All of this can still be eaten.
“Do a look-smell-taste test before eating. After a while, you’ll realise that you don’t need to buy so much food, because you’ll be eating food that your neighbours don’t want. And when you have too much food, you can also share it with them if they want it.”
#2 Keep the animals happy and well-fed
“If you have food that’s not suitable for humans, you could share it with animals. If you have a pet dog (or chicken, which is rare), you can feed it your scraps or leftovers. You can also collate your scraps and share it with the strays.” (Here’s a post about HOPE Dog Rescue, which is made up of volunteers who feed strays and help care for shelter dogs, to motivate you.)
#3 Give back
“If you don’t wish to feed animals with your scraps and leftovers, you could make a compost bin and let the food be turned into compost. There are many articles available on the internet that can teach you how to make a compost bin that won’t smell.
“Alternatively, you can arrange to give it to a community garden that accepts such food for composting. If you don’t know what to do with the compost you’ve made, you can always give it to a neighbour who does gardening.
“Why is this important? Because food contains organic matter,” he stresses.
“This organic matter comes from the earth’s resources. If we don’t return it to the earth, but choose to incinerate it and let the residue be buried in a landfill, we’re using up the earth’s precious resources without replacing them. And we’re talking 676,800 tonnes of resources in 2017 that weren’t returned to the earth.”
There are perks
All this good work is possible when you’re collaborating with other volunteers who are passionate about zero waste and being environmentally friendly.
“I love the food rescue community,” states Daniel.
“Although we may each have different motivations, we all have the same goal – to reduce food waste. I love how everyone comes together to play a part in our mission. I love the energy we have, the dynamism, the initiative that our community members have.”
What’s more, “I love all the free food that we get.”