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BBQ buffet company tackles food waste problem with innovations and sincerity

Barbeque Plaza, a buffet with 97 locations in Thailand, is proud with the meals that they serve with their selection of the freshest meat and vegetables, putting their heart to make the best sauce.

But the little girl in the advertisement, interrupts the presentation with a question, “Are we making the most of it?”

The issue is not just about the best meal, but the real question is, what to do with the waste, the leftover of the process in producing our needed food – even the not so delicious ones.

It wasn’t just about the foods and drinks; it includes the containers too. Those things that are necessary before but now has to be thrown away. What can be done about it?

In the advertisement, the leftover food are turned into pet food and fertilizer. Used bamboo chopsticks and used bottles are also converted to useful items.

While the restaurant is doing its best to contribute to the solution, it is obvious that it is not just the problem of companies. It is a problem that implicates everybody.

Journalism students from the Nanyang Technological University conducted a study on household waste in Singapore by collecting a day’s worth of food waste from 150 families staying in HDB flats, condominiums and landed property.

The results show that fruit peels, vegetable parts, eggshells, bones and leftovers like rice and gravy formed the bulk of the waste, and the average household food waste per person was 126g.

In another survey of 174 Singapore residents, the students found that six in ten would buy more than what they need when shopping at supermarkets. It could lead to overstocking of food at home, and the food could end up not being consumed and expire. The survey also shows that 70% would throw away food that has been slightly expired by one to three days, even though it is still edible.

Asians tend to provide an abundance of food to guests, and at social or festive events such as wedding banquets and annual dinner and dance events, it is common to see visitors unable to finish the eight or nine-course meal and thus wasting food.

It is also common to see food waste at buffets, where the all-you-can-eat concept sees customers take more food than they can finish. The NTU students found that at least 10 to 20% of prepared food goes to waste.

wastefrom wasteinsingaporeoutreach

Typically, food waste would go to a landfill where it would decompose, or it would go to an incinerator.

"The issue with landfills obviously is the emissions of landfill gas, which is methane. This is a very bad greenhouse gas - it is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide," said Mr Edwin Khew, chairman of the Association of Sustainable Energy (SEAS), CNA reported.

At the present, burning food waste is Singapore’s primary method of waste disposal which uses enormous amounts of energy to do.

Singapore has only one landfill left - Semakau Landfill - and it is expected to run out of space if habits do not change.

Samantha Boh reported in Straits Times in May 2015:  “Singapore’s land¬fill will run out of space between 2035 and 2045; if the nation continues to dispose of more than three million tonnes of rubbish a year.”

In Taiwan, leftover food scraps help farmers sustain porky appetites.

The Guardian reported, Taiwan is one of a handful of countries that have institutionalized the practice of leftover food to be fed to livestock. About two-thirds of the island nation’s overall food waste, which totalled a 610,000 tons last year, goes to help feed the country’s 5.5m pigs – the top meat source for the country’s 23.5 million people.

This is also common in some Asian countries. Japan, for example, diverts 35% of its food waste to pig farms, preserving some of the leftovers by cooking them at high temperatures and adding lactobacillus, a bacteria used in the production of yogurt. The farms that use this feed can then market their products as eco-friendly pork, which enables them to charge higher prices.

Western countries are also facing the problems of the food waste. The US, for example, set its first national goal to reduce food waste last September and hopes to cut its food waste in half by 2030.

But recycling leftover food isn’t popular in Western countries. The UK, for example, now forbids the use of animal parts in livestock feed in 1996 after the emergence of mad cow disease, an epidemic that was spread by farmers feeding diseased animal bits to livestock.

Likewise, the European Union prohibited the use of all food waste except for certain byproducts of food production, such as hops from breweries and whey from dairies, after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in pigs,

The US has no federal law regulating feeding scraps to pigs, but 22 states have banned the practice.

Nevertheless, as mentioned by BBQ Plaza in its advert, it is everybody’s problem, it’s your turn to help find the answer.