Every single year 5,899,000kgs of food are thrown away across the island. That’s nearly six million kilos of perfectly edible food lost and wasted. Given the amount of natural resources that go into producing and distributing this food, there’s no justification for this kind of waste.
But there are simple solutions we can use to tackle this waste, and if you run a commercial entity you could save time, money and the planet just by being a little bit more aware.
Before diving into the solutions, it’s important to understand the main causes of the problem, because prevention is almost always better than a cure.
1. Malta loves large portions
Maltese people are very keen on the concept of go big or go home, and our food is no exception to this. There’s also an issue with people paying more, so they expect more.
In general, people who eat at restaurants know how much the raw food item costs, so when they go to a restaurant and see the prices, they except a lot of food. The problem with this is the price isn’t just for the food you’re receiving, it also includes the cost of labour involved to make and serve it, as well as rent prices and service bills.
Another (potentially sinful in the eyes of the Maltese) ‘extra’ is bread on the table that doesn’t get consumed and has to be thrown away.
2. Obsessive levels of presentation
Looks are important, and it’s important to make sure food is well plated. The problem starts to arise when establishments would rather have extra food that looks good than work to be more conservative with their waste.
3. Huge menus
When the menu items span from sushi to pizza, there’s a lot of ingredients that are purchased in the off chance one or two people will want them. But if they’re not ordered they will spoil.
4. A Maltese system encouraging over-purchasing
In Malta there’s a system that allows supermarkets and distributors to return their expired goods to the importer and receive some form of compensation. While beneficial for the sellers, it also encourages ‘bulk purchasing’ without assessing what’s going to waste and how to reduce that next time.
5. The cheapest solution
While throwing out food causes establishments to lose money, the cheapest way to get rid of unused food is still to just chuck it. And while it may save some coins, it isn’t helping the island or the globe in any way.
While all of the above points may come across as a little daunting to fix, there are some easy solutions. At home families can start composting from biodegradable waste. In those localities where food waste is collected separately, families should introduce separate household food waste. On a large scale restaurants and other commercial entities can try any of the following.
1. Offer half portions
Many people know their limits, and while they may be too hungry (or embarrassed) for a Kids Pizza, they’d happily settle for a half-sized meal if they could. This reduces the risk of people not finishing food they knew they wouldn’t want from the get-go.
2. Use of leftovers
Who doesn’t like having food ready for work the next day? Encouraging people to take the food they don’t finish home with them means restaurants have a lot less food to throw away.
3. Always buy fresh
Sourcing local, fresh ingredients will provide a quality service to customers and allow you to buy what you need for the day, without bulk buying (and potentially wasting) ingredients.
4. Focus your menu
Make sure it’s the best it can be, but limit it to not be overextended when trying to please everyone. Your wallet and your customers will thank you.
5. Embrace the environmentalism, and celebrate it
It’s 2018 – people are a lot more socially aware. If your establishment is going out of its way to do something cool and beneficial to the environment, make sure you show it off. Customers will come running as everyone loves to feel like they’re contributing to a better world.
To continue fighting against all the food waste, the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change in collaboration with Wasteserv launched a project back in October 2015. The main objectives behind this project included reducing the size of the black bag by 50%, to make better use of landfill availability. And now the project is ready to go nationwide in September 2018.