An unbelievably simple way to stop wasting food

Food wastage is a problem in every country. How can we have people on the poverty line who need food and also have people throw away huge amounts of food every day? Isn’t there some way we can reconcile the two extremes?

I

Food waste in Malta is a problem, as it is in most countries. A 2016 University thesis by Mr Daniel Vella estimated food waste as 52.1% of municipal waste. His research delves into the reasons why wastage is so high and makes for interesting reading.

(I have a problem with percentages. 52.1% is just over half of whatever the real number is. Half sounds like a lot, but half of a little is nothing to worry about. The juicy information is in the real numbers, so I turned to Eurostat to get some proper data.)

In January 2018, Eurostat reported household waste in Malta at 647 kg per person, compared to the European average of 480 kg. Eurostat’s figures were from 2017, which is close enough to Mr Vella’s 2016 numbers. This means Malta throws away a mountainous 337 kg of food per person per year.

That’s a lot.

It is unrealistic to think we can ever reduce this to zero. There will always be genuine wastage.

It still is a number we should reduce.

The big question is: How?

II

Companies can sort out their food wastage problems. Countries have passed laws to reduce waste and help get food to those who need it.

France, as an example, has a law in place that makes it illegal for shops to throw away edible food. If they do, the authorities will fine them EUR 4,000 per infraction. Ignoring the law can be expensive. Drivers from the French food bank pick up the extra food and charities distribute them to the needy.

In Malta we throw away 337 kg of food per person per year. Time we did something about it.

It’s a great way of making sure food is not wasted and gets to those in need.

Malta doesn’t have similar laws which led the Democratic Party to call for such legislation.

Did you know Malta has at least one company that is already doing something of the sort?

This is great when it comes to commercial waste.

What about household waste?

III

There aren’t many people talking about proper proposals to solve this problem.

European Parliamentarian Miriam Dalli spoke about waste separation to help improve recycling. This puts our waste to good use. Some people will be motivated to be more careful, if faced with the need to separate, so the total amount will decrease. I suspect the numbers will be small, but it will be a good move in the right direction.

Companies have easy ways to recycle, but how do we solve household food wastage?

Malta’s WasteServ will launch a nationwide waste separation programme in September 2018. There is no immediate news on how it is treating or reusing this waste but it’s a great step forward.

They’re good ideas to handle what happens after we’ve thrown away food. They don’t reduce the mountain thrown away in the first place though.

Maybe it is hard to reduce food wastage in homes.

Or is it?

IV

There is a brilliant app and network called Olio in the UK.

I can summarise it as Uber for food: if I have some food I don’t need, I can use the Olio app to let people know about this. If someone else takes it, I can share the resource instead of throwing it away.

For example, I can list the contents of my fridge before going on holiday. I’m not going to use that food because I’ll be away. Maybe someone will put those 5 onions, 200 g of cheddar and iceberg lettuce to good use. What’s more, people must know how to handle food and understand hygiene rules before they’re allowed on the app. People know they will get good quality stuff from the app; from leftovers to raw ingredients.

Olio started in July 2015 and has, to date, saved over 172,608 meals from going to waste. It’s an incredible idea and is working wonders in the UK. It’s also the sort of thing a densely populated country like Malta could use.

As a result, my call to action today is simple:

Why hasn’t the government just adopted this app, or a similar mechanism? Is it serious about wanting to reduce waste? For that matter, if the Democratic Party is so interested in the subject, why doesn’t it do something of the sort?

This is not rocket science guys because the solution is already out there.

You just need to step up.

Please share this with someone who doesn’t like wasting food because you want to live in a better Malta.

References

  1. Analysing household food waste in the Maltese islands; Daniel Vella; University of Malta; 2016
  2. 480 kg of municipal waste generated per person in the EU; Eurostat; 2018-01-23
  3. French Food Waste Law Changing How Grocery Stores Approach Excess Food; Eleanor Beardsley; National Public Radio; 2018-02-24
  4. New Czech law seeks to cut food waste; Ruth Fraňková; Radio Praha; 2018-01-04
  5. Nobody in Malta should go hungry; Partit Demokratiku; 2017-01-26
  6. One Fast Food Chain In Malta Is Using Its Leftover Food In The Best Way Possible; Johnathan Cilia; Lovin Malta; 2018-04
  7. Separating organic waste can lead to an increase in recycled waste – Miriam Dalli; The Malta Independent; 2018-04-07
  8. Our impact; Olio; (Retrieved 2018-07-10) 

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.


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