While there has been a tide of civic efforts to curb food waste and utilize leftover ingredients, it is good to see more local government bodies getting on board with the concept. For example, after the Taipei Summer Universiade, the Taipei City Government shipped uneaten food to various social welfare organizations.
On Tuesday, the Central News Agency reported that the New Taipei City Government has been working with civic organizations and businesses to set up a network that would provide “ugly vegetables” and other leftover ingredients to kitchens that serve meals to the needy. Meanwhile, similar initiatives have been popping up nationwide, such as a restaurant in Taichung that uses leftover ingredients and a chef who visits people’s homes to cook meals from whatever is in their refrigerators.
Not wasting food is crucial to Taiwan’s bid to become a circular economy, as the statistics are jarring: Last year, a report showed that Taiwan’s convenience stores and supermarkets alone discarded more than 36,000 tonnes of food per year. According to National Taiwan University statistics, the total amount of food wasted annually in Taiwan is about 3.73 million tonnes, or 158kg per person.
What is alarming about these numbers is that more than 60 percent of the food is wasted by consumers — which is about 20 percent greater than in other nations in the Asia-Pacific region. While organizations and businesses can do their part in facilitating the recycling of food, it is ultimately up to people and individual restaurants and stores to change their mindset to make the most impact. How often do you buy more food than you can eat, perhaps because that item was on sale? How many times have you been lazy and directly tossed your kitchen waste into your regular garbage?
It is time to start paying attention — especially with these new initiatives that put a spotlight on how many people in Taiwan actually do not have enough food to eat. Food waste by consumers is the product of a developed and prosperous society, but often ignored is the fact that there are people who could use the food that is thrown out. Wasting food does not just affect people, it impacts resources such as land, energy and water, and in turn the economy.
With Taiwan’s rapid urbanization and economic boom, most adults today grew up with a disconnect as to where their food came from. This is gradually changing through school programs and other rural education classes, in which urban children spend time at farms or try to grow their own vegetables. This will definitely help them become more conscious about wasting food in the future.
The time of seemingly infinite resources has long passed, and it is not just the government and businesses that need to do their part to create a circular economy — it is up to every individual.
In other news on the recycling front, the Environmental Protection Administration on Monday announced its bid to make Taiwan “plastic free” in 10 years, with plans to ban products with plastic beads starting next year, when 80,000 stores are also to stop handing out plastic bags for free. However, with a maximum price of NT$1 per bag, it is still questionable what the impact of the policy will be. Maybe actor Kuo Tzu-chien (郭子乾) is right — to really stop the use of plastic bags, the government should allow stores to sell them for as much as NT$100.
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