Eco warriors on a mission

04 Sep 2019 / 16:17 H.

MALAYSIANS throw away a huge amount of food on a daily basis. In fact, a large percentage of solid waste that ends up at landfills comprise of food.

So critical is this problem that even the government has taken heed of it and established the Food Bank Malaysia programme last year to channel surplus food that is still in good condition to the B40 group and welfare homes.

However, long before the government stepped in, soup kitchens and grassroots non-governmental organisations have been working tirelessly to collect edible unsold food from restaurants, hotels and hypermarkets to be redistributed to the needy.

One such social enterprise is Green Hero. theSun recently spoke to the founder, Penang-born Calvin Chan, to talk about food waste and the detrimental effects on the environment.

1. There is about 700,000kg of food wasted daily in Penang. If we’re talking about the biggest culprits in terms of food wastage and carbon footprint, which states in Malaysia are in dire need of intervention to reduce food waste?

News reports state that Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor are the three states with the highest volume of food waste in Malaysia. Our immediate goal is to help reduce food waste in these three states by 12% by the end of 2020.

Currently, Green Hero’s capacity only allows us to focus on Penang and Kuala Lumpur (KL), and we have been able to consistently save about 600kg of food waste on average per week in both Penang and KL combined.

The figure can go up to 900kg -1,200kg upon additional requests particularly from catering companies, to save excess food from their buffets.

We believe more can be done to save food from going to waste particularly by F&B outlets.

I would urge F&B businesses to call upon Green Hero to help them channel their excess food in a more environmentally-friendly way, rather than throwing it away.

2. In relation to the above, how big is the difference between food wastage in urban Malaysia compared to the more rural areas?

According to news reports, it appears urban centres are the bigger culprit, possibly because urban centres have more food outlets e.g. hotels, restaurants, fast food chains, grocery stores as well as a much higher population compared to rural areas.

Whether urban or rural folk, we find that the awareness level about food waste and its negative impact on the environment is still low among Malaysians.

As such, one can deduce that the difference would be quite significant between urban centres and rural areas.

Furthermore, rural folk have the option and tendency to channel their excess food (whenever available) to their livestock or to even use it as compost.

3. On Green Hero’s website, it is stated that the movement’s main priority is to achieve zero food wastage in Malaysia within the next five years. How close is GH to achieving this?

We initially thought it was easier to convince hotels, merchants and grocery stores to join us in tackling the problem of food waste from surplus food. Unfortunately, this is proving to be more difficult than anticipated but we will not give up and will persevere to achieve our goal and ambition.

4. As the Green Hero team has conducted talks and activities at the grassroots level to educate and spread “eco-awareness”, do you – and the rest of the GH team – believe that it is possible to still save the environment (at least in terms of severely reducing or eradicating food wastage) through the efforts of the younger generation?

It is still possible to save the environment. Scientists have said that we have 12 years to go to save the environment before things become too impossible to reverse the negative effects.

I don’t know how true this is but looking at the climate change patterns in Penang and across Malaysia, it worries me every day as we get closer to 2031!

Moreover in Malaysia, there are states that have already banned the usage of plastic straws, encouraging the practice of waste segregation, promoting the use of smart parking apps to reduce the usage of parking coupons, tax incentives for people to install green technology at home such as solar panels, solar heater, rain water harvesting system, etc.

These initiatives have heavily influenced the younger generation to be more exposed and understand why “green” is the future.

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