Setting up system to measure food waste a good first step

Despite our love for food, Singaporeans generate a lot of food waste (Do our part to curb food wastage, by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; July 12).

Last year, 791,000 tonnes of food waste was generated. It is crucial that action is taken to curb this problem.

When we waste food, we also waste the resources utilised to produce the food, such as land, energy and water. Burning food at incineration plants would require greater energy than burning general waste, as most foods have high water content.

If we can reduce food wastage, we can reduce energy usage.

Furthermore, according to the United Nations, if the amount of food wasted around the world was reduced by just 25 per cent, there would be enough food to feed all the people who are malnourished.

As Singapore is a small island state with an integrated and comprehensive transport system, an islandwide food redistribution system which links companies with charities that give away food or sell it at discounted prices might be worth considering.

However, we cannot manage what we cannot measure.

Currently, the numbers we have do not show where the food waste originates from and what is collected.

Top-down approaches, such as measuring food wastage and offering incentives, are much needed to accelerate efforts to reduce food waste.

We must first invest in systems that measure the food waste that results from different segments of the food value chain, and monitor the progress over time.

Then, based on the data, the Government and companies could accelerate and scale up the adoption of policies, incentives, investment and practices that reduce food loss and waste.

For instance, in Emeryville, California, whenever Ikea's kitchen employees throw away food, the weight and type of food are quickly recorded on a screen mounted above the bin, and employees can see the financial cost of that food and the carbon footprint.

The company draws insights from patterns in the data over time, and makes changes to minimise that waste.

The visibility provided by a food waste measurement system supports faster and more effective decisions and control of processes in organisations.

With concerted efforts by businesses, the Government and people, Singapore can hopefully become a leader in food waste reduction.

Lee Zhong Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Setting up system to measure food waste a good first step'. Print Edition | Subscribe