What a waste: Indonesia’s struggle with food waste

Posted by Liv Lemos / 22-Sep-2019

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According to a study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Indonesia is the world’s second largest food waster, binning almost 300 Kg of food per person each year.

Around 13 million tonnes of food are wasted every year - this food could feed roughly 28 million people.

The study, titled Fixing Food: Towards a More Sustainable Food System  found that only Saudi Arabia is worse than Indonesia in food waste, throwing away 427 kg of food per individual on an annual basis.

Worldwide, one third of all food produced annually is lost or wasted costing us around one trillion dollars.

This problem is particularly sensitive in countries such as Indonesia, where millions of people still suffer from malnutrition and poverty. 11 percent of the population is living below the poverty line and  7.6 % of the 260 million population suffer from malnutrition.

In this respect, Indonesia is only better than Ethiopia (32 %) and India (15.2 %).

Food waste is a serious and costly issue to the Indonesian government.

It generates negative consequences to a range of different areas including the economy and public health, just to mention a few. Unfortunately the problem is not exclusive to Indonesia, and it also affects other regions in Asia.

As stated by the FAO, 42% of fruits and vegetables and up to 30% of grains produced across Asia and the Pacific region get wasted or lost even before it reaches consumers’ plates. Asia is responsible for nearly one-quarter of all food waste globally.

As part of the solution, the Economist Intelligence Unit recommends that the Indonesian government starts imposing fines on business high in waste.

Alternatively, incentives could be offered for households and businesses that make use of recoverable edible food. This could be for human consumption, animal feed, industrial uses, anaerobic digestion and composting.

In addition to that, it also suggests that infrastructure and storage improvements are needed, in order to upgrade transportation and avoid food waste in the early stages of the supply chain.  

Indonesia has a culture of lavish weddings which is one of the reasons the country's per-person waste is so high. A programme called 'A Blessing To Share' is working towards solving this problem. They 'rescue' food from these events and deliver it to those in need. 

While all these initiatives are important and can help reduce the amount of food that gets wasted in Asia, prevention is the most effective way of solving the problem.

When we waste food we also waste the resources that were put into the production process, such as water, energy and labour. It affects both the economy and the environment. Thus, prevention makes good business sense.

In 2017 we opened our first office in Singapore to provide food waste solutions for the hospitality industry in the Asia Pacific region. Since our arrival, we have expanded to several new Asian markets, including Indonesia, and we’ve recently opened an office in China to help meet customer’s demand.

We work with some of the world's most prestigious brands, such as Accor Hotels, Compass Group, and IKEA.

Our clients have shown that by measuring and monitoring it is possible to cut food waste by 50% or more by value, saving 3-8% on food cost and reduce their environmental footprint at the same time.

We believe that business can be a force for good. Large organisations are great influencers, and they can play an important role in leading the way towards a more sustainable system.

Forward thinking companies using smart scales to reduce their food waste have a real opportunity to act and benefit both the environment and business.

If you would like to know more how we can help your operations become more profitable by reducing food waste, get in touch with us.

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Photo credit: Clem Onojeguo via Unsplash

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