With a growing population, Malaysia faces a challenge in addressing food wastage throughout its supply chain. The culture of food waste needs to be nipped in the bud.
Malaysia is a food lover’s paradise. With the wide array of cuisines which captures the diversity of its citizens, food is the heart of many important social and cultural occasions. However, with the abundance of choice, Malaysia also faces a culture of waste.
Solid Waste Corporation of Malaysia (SWCorp) reported that in 2015, food waste in Malaysia reached 15,000 tonnes daily, including 3,000 tonnes that was still safe for consumption and should not have been discarded.
What is food waste?
Food waste occurs when food is uneaten and thrown away. Based on estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one-third of all food produced in the world ends up as food waste.
Ironically, it is estimated that about 868 million people still suffer from starvation and malnutrition worldwide. All citizens must keep in mind that the food waste issue is not only associated with social, economic, environmental aspects, but it is also an ethical problem that needs to be seriously considered.
The United States is the worst offender with food waste consuming close to a fifth of all available fresh water and available cropland space each year. In the US, food waste is the number-one material sent to landfills ahead of paper and plastic products. This food waste and losses at the retail and consumer level amounted to 188kg per capita per year, or an overall value of US$165.6 billion in 2014.
In Southeast Asia, it is estimated that 33% of food is wasted, which is consistent with the global estimates of FAO.
How is the food waste disposed of?
In Malaysia, food waste is classified as part of the Municipal solid waste (MSW). Apart from landfills (~65% usage), recycling centres, compost depots and incinerators are used to dispose of MSW. 
Supply chain issues
The production of food requires a lot of resources throughout the supply chain. From the land for agriculture to the water needs of the crops and livestock, to the energy requirements of manufacturers and distributions centres, there are a lot of factors contributing to GHG emissions even before the food reaches the hands of the consumers.
Food waste will occur at all points in the supply chain, but according to ReFED, the most food waste occurs in the home (43% by weight), with restaurants and grocery stores (40%) a close second; about 16% of food waste occurs on farms and about 2% occurs in processing and distribution.
With the majority of food waste occurring at home, consumers should play their part in reducing food waste by making more conscious decisions when it come to their food consumption patterns.
Tip for reducing food waste at home
- Keep track of what’s in your refrigerator and pantry to avoid buying food items that you already have.
- Plan weekly meals before shopping to minimise wastage.
- Learn how to interpret food product dates. A considerable amount of household food waste occurs because consumers discard “expired” food that is still edible.
- In instances that food waste still occurs, it can be turned into compost that can be used as a soil enhancer or turned into biogas through a biodigester.
 Survey on Solid Waste Composition, Characteristics & Existing Practice of Solid Waste Recycling in Malaysia (2012), JPSPN, pre-lab discussions
 UN Hunger Report – https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/food
 Paul Teng & Sally Trethewie – Tackling urban & rural food wastage in Southeast Asia: Issues & Interventions (2012)
 Lim W. J. et al – Food waste handling in Malaysia and comparison with other Asian countries (2016)
 Zero Waste Malaysia – Food Waste: Pecking Out the Stale Issue – https://zerowastemalaysia.org/food-waste/