Food Waste Generation in Malaysia

*Definition of Food Waste*

Food waste is a growing global issue that is affecting the health of the environment and population inhabiting the earth. Food waste can be further classified info food loss, unavoidable food waste and avoidable food waste.

Food loss and food waste represent a misuse of resources that are used to produce it. Food loss refers to the decreased in quantity or quality of food, that is lost during the preparation and production of the food supply chain. As for food waste it is part of food loss, unavoidable food waste refers to the inedible parts of food that include fruit core and peels. Avoidable food waste is edible food lost generated at any level within the food chain, which includes production, processing, distribution, and consumption.

*Food Waste Generation in Malaysia*

The concern on food waste starts to increase in Malaysia, and it is one of the major environmental problems in Malaysia as it leads to water and air pollution, and as well as health problems to the entire population. Ministry of Housing and Local Government in the year 2012, indicated that the Malaysian Government has built a total of 290 landfill sites, and above half of the sites been closed due to insufficient capacity, and only 8 sites out of these met the standard requirement.

According to the figures by Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation, 55 percent of solid waste at landfill sites is food waste. The methane, harmful greenhouse gas is emitted when the food waste at the landfill sites decomposes anaerobically. In the year 2019, it is reported that a total of 310,220 tons of methane gas was generated from the landfill sites in Peninsular Malaysia, and the figure was estimated to increase further.

Other than the food waste produced by the consumers, about 20 percent to 50 percent of fruits and vegetables are thrown away during the production chain as based on the figure provided by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. This food loss and food waste are sent to landfill sites as well.

As stated above the food waste are produced during all level of the food chain including production and supply chain. The factors that contributed to the generation of food waste include households, hotels, restaurants, commercial activities.

Malaysians generate 16,688 tons of food waste on a daily basis, which can feed 12 million people for three meals a day, out of this about 60 percent of wasted food is still edible. Moreover, food waste is reported to increase by 15 percent to 20 percent during festival seasons.

It is observed that larger restaurants and buffets tend to produce more food waste. As for small restaurants, the food often cooked when the order is taken thus lesser waste is produced. However, for the buffets and for large events, the food is prepared ahead of time and the food goes to waste if a large group of people cancels their buffet reservation at the last minute.

It is reported that buffets 270,000 tons of waste food are thrown away during festival seasons, and this causes monetary losses to the restaurants and buffets. It is also reported that during Ramadan in the year 2018, SW Corp recorded that a total of 615,000 tons of food waste was generated. There is food waste during other festival seasons such as Chinese New Year and Christmas, however, the impact of Ramadan seems higher as it lasts for a month.

In underdeveloped countries, about 300 grams of food waste is produced by each person a day, while in the developed countries, approximately 3 to 4 kilograms of food waste is produced by each person. However, in Malaysia, it is stated that about 1 kilogram of food waste is generated per person per day. This is due to the economic growth in Malaysia, which increased the income and living standard of Malaysians, results in an increased in purchasing power and changed in food consumption habits. According to the research, food waste produced by Malaysians in a day is equivalent to 93,000 kilograms of rice each day.

The households of Malaysia contribute a high percentage of food waste. According to the figure provided by SW Corp, a household of five spends an average of RM 900 per month on food, and a quarter of related food is wasted, which means that an estimated amount of RM 2,700 a year per household is wasted.

On the other hand, based on the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, the homeless and poor in Malaysia are not getting nourishment diet and 12% of children living in urban low-cost flats has less than three meals a day (UNICEF, 2018). In addition, homeless people in Kuala Lumpur range from 1,500 to 2,000, and these figures have increased over time.