Singapore households waste S$342 million worth of food – or 68.4 million plates of nasi lemak – a year

Singapore households throw away unconsumed food equivalent to 68.4 million plates of nasi lemak annually.
The New Paper

Singapore households throw away around S$342 million in unconsumed food annually, a new study by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has found.

By volume, the amount of food wasted is equivalent to 68.4 million plates of nasi lemak annually.

According to SEC, which conducted the research with Deloitte Singapore, more than 26,000 tonnes of unconsumed foods are thrown away from households annually due to improper storage, purchasing patterns and food handling habits.

As part of its research, SEC surveyed 1,002 respondents in Singapore, on the topic of food waste. SEC estimated that on average, Singapore households throw away an estimated S$6.57 million worth of food per week.

About one third of respondents surveyed said they would throw away 10 per cent or more of uncooked and unconsumed food items per week, SEC said.

Only around 20 per cent of respondents were classified as “smart consumers” who:

• Do not throw away unconsumed food • Are effective and organised planners who always or often make a shopping list of food items to buy • Not swayed by promotional offers to buy excess food items that are potentially wasted • Make sure they consume all food items bought and do not buy more than they need • Shop at least once a week without contributing to an increase in food waste

393,000 tonnes of food already lost before reaching consumers

SEC’s study also revealed that a whopping 342,000 tonnes of food is lost in Singapore even before it reaches retail and consumers. This is part of the estimated total of 393,000 tonnes of food – both imported and from local farms – that are lost in the upstream and midstream phases, the non-profit group said.

Food loss refers to food that is lost in the supply chain between producer and the market, while food waste is the discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is otherwise safe and nutritious for human consumption.

According to SEC, more than 144,000 tonnes of food is lost when imported foods land in Singapore.

For locally produced food, more than 5,000 tonnes of food is lost at production, and close to 2,000 tonnes of food is lost during post-harvest handling and storage, SEC said.

There is a further food loss of close to 75,000 tonnes in processing and packaging of both locally-produced and imported foods, and also more than 116,000 tonnes in food loss during distribution.

Of the 342,000 tonnes of food loss incurred within Singapore, 49 per cent are from the loss of vegetables and fruits, which make up about 167,000 tonnes – equivalent to more than 5,900 20-foot containers.

Eggs accounted for the lowest amount lost, at about 5,500 tonnes or 1.6 per cent. Still, this is equivalent to about 305 double-decker buses, SEC said.

Singapore Environment Council

The lower amount of waste reported for the eggs supply chain was said to be owing to advanced development and efficient flow between the production and distribution channels.

“Through the use of automation, application of science and technology in disease management amongst other measures, egg farms in Singapore have been able to maximise output while ensuring minimal loss during production,” SEC said.

Singapore Environment Council Chairman Ms Isabella Huang-Loh said: In Singapore, food waste is largely monitored at the post-consumer or downstream stage, with little awareness of the losses occurring at the upstream and midstream stages.

“When taken together – especially given the fact that Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food needs – the bigger picture points to an urgent need to address food loss and food waste now.”

According to Huang-Loh food loss in Singapore contributes to an estimated US$2.54 billion from farm to market within Singapore. “More can be done in an industrialised country like Singapore to reduce food loss. Down the chain, better coordination and raising awareness among food industries, retailers and consumers can go a long way to reduce food loss and waste,” she said.

The report identified the key drivers of food loss as: • Poor disease and pest management • Over importation of food items • Fragmented cold chain management • Inadequate infrastructure

Food loss in Singapore contributes to an estimated US$2.54 billion from farm to market within Singapore, SEC said.
The Straits Times

Emphasising that both food loss and food waste is preventable, SEC Executive Director Jen Teo said it would be “unsustainable” to go on without dealing with food loss and waste issues.

“There are several aspects of the fresh food supply chain which needs to be looked at with a fresh pair of lens, beyond the dollar value, where we can all make a difference and cut down on food loss and food waste.

“For example, local farmers may want to utilise more innovative ways like the application of technology to reduce food loss. Similarly, a greater awareness of the impact of food waste on the environment could give rise to a growing pool of smart and efficient consumers who don’t discard food unnecessarily,” she said.

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