Food Waste: Pecking Out the Stale Issue

It is 4:30 p.m. in the evening, you are barely concentrating on your work and your hunger pangs getting aggressive, the symphony in your gut is about to commence. For the next hour, all you could think of is the food that you wanted to have. Should you get a sushi platter, or try out that new fatty crab place that everyone has been raving about?

As soon as you punched out, you rushed to the restaurant and ordering that sushi platter that you have been fantasizing. Thinking that it would not be enough, you started ordering appetizers; salmon skin and gyozas. As soon as you started eating the appetizer, you are already getting full and you could no longer finish the food you ordered.

Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, our greed has inadvertently contributed to 16,688 tonnes of daily food waste in Malaysia. That is enough food to feed 12 million people a day! Our mothers were right, when we throw away our food, we need to think about the people in underprivileged countries and how we are depriving food from them. 


Here at Zero Waste Malaysia, we would like to share with you a few tips on reducing food waste, based on our 5R principles:


The first and easiest step is always taking a step back and reflecting on your actual need. Do you really need an extra bowl of rice? Can you really finish all the food you ordered? We should always strive to distinguish between what is our need and our want. Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry, and hold off the extra rice until you finish the remaining food on your plate. If it is not enough, you can always order more. An example of a restaurant that supports refusing excess food waste is An Viet, a Vietnamese chain restaurant that requests patrons to choose their portion and allowing them to add an additional portion for no extra cost. For every completed meal, the restaurant will set aside RM 0.10 for the Food Aid Foundation.


Personally, I have a small appetite and I could not finish a full portion of a meal. Therefore, I would always request for half a portion. An example of my order would be; “Mamak, Maggi goreng separuh satu.” Alternatively, I always go out for meals with my colleagues and would always request to share a meal. It is a great way for us to bond over food, and it is also friendly to our wallets. It may be tempting to request for a full portion, especially since you are paying full price for half a portion. We would recommend for you to bring a container with you to store any leftover food you have for later.


Remember that leftover food sitting in the fridge from last night’s dinner? Take it out and bring it to work, it instantly becomes your lunch for the day! Do you feel that the hawker at the chicken rice stall gives you too much chicken compared to the rice? Shred the chicken, mix with mayo and it instantly becomes a chicken sandwich! With a little creativity, we could innovate different recipes from our leftover to become something entirely new and interesting. 


You had an office party and there is always a large amount of leftovers that everyone is hesitant to clean up. What do you do? The first option is always to get your colleagues to bring some back home. However, if there is still a lot of items and the food is still edible, there are a number of soup kitchens or shelter homes that might be grateful for that surplus food. Even corporations have shown initiative and partnered with soup kitchens to send surplus food to the needy, as done by Sunway Group and Kechara Soup Kitchen where they donated 780 kg worth of surplus food for 2,800 beneficiaries. Another great social enterprise that aims to reduce food wastage in Malaysia is Grub Cycle, a social enterprise that provides access to surplus food at a bargain price.


Ultimately, there will be some food waste that we are not able to salvage, such as the crab shells or the chicken bones in our kitchens or leftover food restaurant patrons. There are a few ways to compost our food waste. The first is to have a compost bin at our home. The Petaling Jaya municipal council provides a brief guideline on home composting in our household. There are various types of home composting such as vermicomposting, bokashi compost and also hot compost, depending on your level of comfort and convenience. A number of community gardens also provide a composting area for your dry food scraps. The municipal government has also toyed with the idea of a commercial compost project but it is still in its pilot phase. Until then, let us do our part to reduce our food waste!

We hope you find this article useful and hopefully will motivate you to reduce your food waste at home. Having all these in mind, it is important to note that sometimes some waste would still be inevitable. However, our main goal is to provide encouragement and support for Malaysians to make our best effort in reducing such waste. After all, we are all inhabitants of this beautiful planet!


Contributor: Amalina