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Cities must seek solutions to tackle food waste.


Cities are places of plenty, with the most opportunities and material comforts, yet they are often also where things go to waste. Roughly one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted - about 1.3bn tonnes per year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The UN has estimated that 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050. There is therefore a direct correlation between the population of cities and the amount of food waste generated, according to Mervyn Jones, director of Sustainable Global Resources.

The issue will be examined at the Clean Enviro Summit running in Singapore from today until Wednesday, in conjunction with the World Cities Summit and the Singapore International Water Week.

The trio of events will analyse challenges related to the development and management of urban centres around the world.

The world, it is estimated, will need about 60% more calories per year by 2050 in order to adequately feed the projected population of more than 9bn people.

Such activity would lead to an increase in carbon emissions as lands are cleared for crops and more machinery is used in agricultural work.

The impact can already be seen: rapid deforestation in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations have triggered what Nasa last year described as possibly the worst fire disaster ever recorded, with smoke and haze spreading to neighbouring countries.

In South Africa, Food Bank South Africa collects surplus food from retailers and wholesalers, and prepares meals for those in need, thus reducing food waste and tackling food poverty in one fell swoop. The group says it distributed 3,350 tonnes of food last year.

In South Korea, the government has taken to charging residents disposal fees according to the weight of the food that they discard.

Some individuals practice freeganism: instead of buying food, they do "dumpster diving", salvaging discarded but still edible food from bins. Elise Lecamp, a 33-year-old translator in Paris, says she goes to market once or twice a week, where she is able to pick up food that vendors discard at the end of the day. She also checks bins once every two weeks. The food that she salvages are enough to feed herself and a flatmate.

"As freegans eat food from dumpsters, or food that was going to be thrown away, this food is saved and consumed instead of going to the landfill.

I eat almost exclusively from what I find," she says.

There is also a focus on waste-awareness education. In the UK, national campaigns like Love Food, Hate Waste target householders and help educate them not just about reducing food waste and healthier diets, but also about collections.

But it is unlikely that food waste will ever be completely eliminated. Because of that management of waste must be optimised.

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Jul 10, 2016
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