Penang is arguably Malaysia’s food capital, and considering how much we love our food, that is saying a lot. Nasi kandar, char kuey teow, asam laksa – their spiritual home is nestled on the tiny island. But there is a downside to all of this abundant, amazing food. Penang State Welfare is reporting that there is 700,000 kg of food wasted daily.
Every single day, enough food to fill four Boeing 747 airplanes gets thrown out. In fact, 40% of all of the rubbish that ends up in Penang’s landfills is made up of food waste from the leftovers from the island’s eateries.
As a country, the single biggest contributor to solid waste is leftover food, with 3,000 tons being dumped daily.
Community activists are calling for a change in the way the public consumes, and treats their food portions — with greater respect. Much of the waste comes from catering, or ready-to-eat outlets, who go for the “more-is-more” appeal with their servings, hoping to satisfy customers keen to see a full plate. Too bad none of them can finish it, leaving behind usually a quarter of their meal.
The New Straits Times reports that adding to the food waste are also grocery stores and vegetable hawkers, who are forced to throw out “less than perfect” food. Throw in fruits and vegetables pressed into an inch of their lives by discerning aunties, and you have a pile of food that no one wants to buy.
Ready-to-eat restaurant proprietors say that they have to cook large portions of everything, as what’s popular one day may not sell the next, and so on and so on.
Shahubar Ali, owner of the popular Nasi Kandar Clear restaurant says that, “in the nasi kandar business, we have to cook many dishes daily to cater to our customers’ taste.” He claims that the wastage is unavoidable, despite trying to enforce extra charges for customers demanding larger portions.
Last year, Denmark made headlines globally after a supermarket selling exclusively cut-price goods past their sell-by date opened a second location. The popularity of the first branch, with queues down the street, resulted in the second shop being opened in a trendy city-neighborhood.
All of the goods sold are donated by varying food outlets, and the workers are all volunteers.
So yeah, while Denmark is there trying to make sure no loaf gets left behind, we’re here throwing curry down the drain. Priorities, people.