Table of contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Definition of Food Waste
- 3. Food Waste Generation in Malaysia
- 4. Government Policies and Regulations on Food Waste in Malaysia
- 5. Food Waste Prevention Activities by Organisations in Malaysia
- 6. Conclusion
Food waste is any by-product or waste product generated from any level within the food chain. Hereinafter, identifies and discusses the food waste problem in Malaysia with a detailed explanation of factors contributing and the prevention activities taken by the food waste producers and related organizations.
In addition, policies and regulations of the Malaysia Government are researched in detail in order to further understand the current food waste situation in Malaysia and to look into if the prevention of the Government and related organizations has increased the public’s overall awareness of food waste in Malaysia.
2. Definition of Food Waste
Food waste is a growing global issue that is affecting the health of the environment and the population inhabiting the earth. Food waste can be further classified into food loss, unavoidable food waste, and avoidable food waste (Lim, Chin, Yusof, Yahya, & Tee, 2016).
Food loss and food waste represent a misuse of resources that are used to produce it. Food loss refers to the decrease 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 including fruit core and peels. Avoidable food waste is edible food loss generated at any level within the food chain, which includes production, processing, distribution, and consumption (Lim et al., 2016; Gan, 2018).
3. 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, as well as health problems for 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 have been closed due to insufficient capacity, and only 8 sites out of these met the standard requirement (Bashir, Tao, Abu Amr & Tan, 2018; Ghafar, 2017).
According to the figures by Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SW Corp), 55 percent of solid waste at landfill sites is food waste (The Star, 2018). Methane, harmful greenhouse gas is emitted when the food waste at the landfill sites decomposes anaerobically (Gan, 2018). 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 (Bashir et al., 2018).
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 (MARDI) (The Star, 2018). This food loss and food waste are sent to landfill sites as well.
As stated above food waste are produced at all level of the food chain including the production and supply chain. The factors that contributed to the generation of food waste includes household, hotels, restaurants, and commercial activities (Asro & Ahmad, 2018).
Malaysians generate 16,688 tons of food waste on a daily basis, which can feed 12 million people for three meals a day (Noor, 2018), out of this about 60 percent of wasted food is still edible (Sunway For Good, 2017). Moreover, food waste is reported to increase by 15 percent to 20 percent during festival seasons (Nurul, 2019; Hassandarvish, 2019).
It is observed that larger restaurants and buffets tend to produce more food waste. As for small restaurants, the food is often cooked when the order is taken thus lesser waste is produced. However, for 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 (Adbul & Navin, 2014).
It is reported that buffets 270,000 tons of waste food are thrown away during festival seasons (Sunway For Good, 2017), and this causes monetary losses to restaurants and buffets (Hassandarvish, 2019; Adbul & Navin, 2014). It is also reported that during Ramadan in the year 2018, a total of 615,000 tons of food waste was recorded by SW Corp (The Star, 2018). 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. (Adbul & Navin, 2014)
In underdeveloped countries, about 300 grams of food waste are produced by each person a day, while in developed countries, an average of 3 to 4 kilograms of food waste is produced per person. However, in Malaysia, it is stated that about 1 kilogram of food waste is produced per person per day. (Adbul & Navin, 2014; Jereme, Siwar, Begum & Abdul, 2016). This is due to the economic growth in Malaysia, which increased the income and living standard of Malaysians, resulting in an increase in purchasing power and change in food consumption habits. (Syahirah, 2017; Ghafar, 2017; Jereme et al., 2016). According to the research, food waste produced by Malaysians in a day is equivalent to 93,000 kilograms of rice each day (Asro & Ahmad, 2018).
The households of Malaysia contribute a high percentage of food waste (Syahirah, 2017). 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 about RM 2,700 a year per household is wasted (Jarjusey & Chamhuri, 2017; Asro & Ahmad, 2018). Based on the study conducted by Jarjusey and Chamhuri in 2017, 57 percent of the respondents are unaware of the difference between the best-before and used-by dates, which indicates that food is discarded due to a lack of clear knowledge and understanding of these dates (Jarjusey & Chamhuri, 2017).
On the other hand, based on the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, the homeless and poor in Malaysia are not getting a nourishment diet and 12% of children living in urban low-cost flats have 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 (Wong, 2018).
4. Government Policies and Regulations on Food Waste in Malaysia
Malaysian Government has focused on the environment and waste management in Malaysia Plan, since the 6th Malaysia Plan. In the 8th Malaysia Plan, a National Recycling Program was re-launched and under the 9th Malaysia Plan, the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Bill was privatized (Jereme, Begum, Talib, Siwar, & Alam, 2015).
In 1998, the Government introduced Action Plan for a Beautiful and Clean (ABC) Malaysia and other recycling campaigns but it was unsuccessful. National Strategic Plan (NSP), a national plan for Municipal Solid Waste Management has succeeded the ABC Plan (Ghafar, 2017).
In 2007, the National Solid Waste Department was created, and important legislations Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672) and the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation Act 2007 (Act 673) were created (Jereme et al., 2015). Act 672 was created with the function to provide and regulate the management of controlled solid waste and public cleaning with the purpose of maintaining proper sanitation (Jereme et al., 2015; Irisha & Esa, 2017). Act 672 was promulgated to emphasize the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and it bought some positive effects on food waste management, but food waste management is still under development and requires more attention and awareness (Lim et al., 2016). Based on the data from SW Corp in the year 2016, the recycling activities by the public have increased to 17 percent from 5 percent within five years, and the Government targeted to reach 22 percent by 2020, with the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (MP 11) (Irisha & Esa, 2017; Ghafar, 2017).
In 2010, the National Strategic Plan for Food Waste Management in Malaysia (NSPFWMM) was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government of Malaysia in collaboration with the Japanese government’s Ministry of the Environment, which aims to educate and provide public awareness with the good habit on disposal of food waste, focusing on recyclable materials and 3Rs. (Lim et al., 2016)
Many waste management plans and projects have been proposed and launched in collaboration with the government. Examples include the National Biomass Strategy (NBS) 2020 in 2013, with the aim to utilize biomass waste for high-value products/activities. (Ghafar, 2017), and Standard and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) have developed an Anaerobic Digestion System that generates energy by using food waste collected from the food courts (Asro & Ahmad, 2018).
The Government's efforts lead to independent activities by other organizations and waste producers to reduce food waste, which are to be discussed in the next section.
5. Food Waste Prevention Activities by Organisations in Malaysia
Waste prevention activities are necessary and it is challenging as it is difficult to change waste generating behavior of the public. Educating and informing of recycling information, and redistribution of food within any level of the food chain, including waste producers and consumers, are important measures to be addressed (Bashir et al., 2018).
With the government’s efforts to reduce food waste, SW Crop is running a campaign and working with several hotels with buffet lines to reduce food waste by distributing and donating to the people in need (Noor, 2018). As for restaurants and buffets, some managements allow staff and dine-in customers to take away the leftover food, especially during festival seasons (Adbul & Navin, 2014). In order to keep food waste low, the buffets have adopted a system where foods are cooked when ordered by the customer (Hassandarvish, 2019).
In addition, Sunway Group also launched a campaign to take part in food waste prevention. The hotel collected 780 kilograms of surplus food from their buffets and distributed it to the people in need, and also collaborated with the existing soup kitchen to distribute buffet food (Sunway For Good, 2017),
The Government is also working together with non-profit organizations (NGOs) to increase public awareness and solve the food waste problem in Malaysia. An example will be MY Save Food Network which was set up by the Food Aid Foundation, they act as a food bank where that encourages retailers, companies, and individuals to donate their unsold and unused edible food, and these are collected and distributed to people in need (Asro & Ahmad, 2018; Ghafar, 2017).
In addition, Mutiara Food Bank, an NGO that collects and distributes food to charitable homes and poor families is established in Penang. A Local social enterprise, Grub Cycle, collects dry foodstuff that is close to the expiry date and sells it at a lower price to the people in need and tries to educate the public on the value of food (The Star, 2018). Not all public are aware of the difference between the best before and used-by dates (Jarjusey & Chamhuri, 2017), and the food still can be consumed even after the best before date, but many Malaysian have misconceptions about the best before date, thus foods are discarded (The Star, 2018).
Furthermore, both Malaysia Government and NGOs are aware the campaigns and activities conducted are still at an infant stage and more efforts are required to reduce food waste and create more awareness among the public (Syahirah, 2017).
Currently in Malaysia. the awareness of food waste are increasing and many efforts to prevent food waste have taken place by the Government and related organization. However, there is still limited awareness by the public and it is important for the public to understand that food waste is required to be managed for a better environment. It is reported that most individuals are still unaware of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), and especially have less knowledge of food waste (Nurul, 2019). According to the data from SW Crops, the recycling activities by the public have increased, and with the development of technology, it seems to be betterment for the Government and NGOs to involve media and social networking to educate and spread awareness to the public.