EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Christmas Food Waste Reduction

An environmental watchdog has released a “Pinoy Food Waste Reduction Guide” (Pinoy Guide) in its latest effort to persuade the public to cut the phenomenal volume of trash during the joyful Christmas season.

The EcoWaste Coalition put together the 20-point “Pinoy Guide” from inputs provided by various advocates for sustainable consumption and pollution prevention.

Among those who shared their ideas were the Cavite Green Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan and Sining Yapak.

“We drew up these practical tips in anticipation of the increased food consumption in December, the merry month of Christmas parties and other social events such as ‘barkada’ get-togethers, family reunions and street gatherings,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The festivities can devour huge amounts of food resources, create tons of food waste and exacerbate the garbage disposal problem, particularly in Metro Manila and other urban hubs. We need to curb this lavishness to a reasonable limit,” he added.

During celebrations, most Filipinos do not want to be embarrassed by shortage of food. Many of us take pride in having more than enough food to offer and, in the end, spoil and throw away food, the group noted.

As a general rule, when preparing or buying food, make the effort to make a closer estimation of what can be consumed, or what we call “sapat” – and keeping the “extra” to a manageable quantity (i.e. what you can share with others, use in the next day or safely store for later consumption ), the group said.

“We therefore call on everyone, rich and poor, to take note of our suggestions and together strive to cut our food waste during the holidays,” pleaded Alvarez.

Citing data from a food consumption survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department and Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), the EcoWaste Coalition lamented that every Filipino wastes 22 grams of edible food per day.

The study also shows that rice and its products comprise the biggest portion of food waste at 16 grams per person daily, which is equivalent to about 1,200 metric tons of wasted rice per day.

Globally, some 1.3 billion tons or about a third of the food produced for human consumption are lost or wasted annually as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Biodegradable discards such as kitchen scraps, food leftovers, animal carcasses and garden residues make up almost half of the waste generated by Metro Manila, which generates up to 8,600 tons of waste daily or about 25% of the national waste production estimated at some 35,000 tons per day.

If dumped or landfilled, these compostable discards can consume significant land space and produce methane, a powerful climate gas that has 72 times warming potential as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, the EcoWaste Coalition warned, explaining that methane is produced in dumpsites and landfills as biodegradable discards decompose in the absence of oxygen.

To address the problem with lavish celebrations and the ensuing waste and pollution, Filipinos are requested to consider the following reminders:

1. Plan ahead, keep the menu simple, healthy and wallet-friendly, opt for dishes that do not spoil easily, prepare just enough for the members of your household and/or confirmed guests and avoid over-the-top revelry. Be guided by the saying “ubos-ubos biyaya, pagkatapos nakatunganga” (spend lavishly, end up with nothing) when you plan for your celebrations.

2. Share excess food to neighbours, street dwellers, sick people, persons in jail, or people who service your community such as the street sweeper, the garbage collector, the waste picker, the security guard, barangay tanod, barangay health worker and other barangay personnel.

3. Check what is available in your refrigerator and kitchen before hitting the market.

4. Prepare an essential food shopping list and stick to it to avoid hasty purchase. Do not forget to bring your bayong and other reusable bags and containers for your shopping needs. Read the labels: do not buy food items past their expiration dates.

5. Calculate and buy only what you need for the occasion. Go for loose fruits and vegetables in lieu of pre-packed that usually come in plastic wrap and Styrofoam tray.

6. Stock only the type and quantity of food items that can be kept properly in the cabinet or refrigerator to retain quality and avoid spoilage. Label and date as needed. Put new items at the back and the old stocks, including leftovers, in front. Ensure good fridge temperature, between 1 to 5 degrees Celsius, to keep items fresh.

7. Post a reminder at the cupboard or fridge door on perishable items that have to be consumed first.

8. If hosting a potluck event, know the number of attendees and have a list of who will bring what and how much (and request them to put their contributions in recyclable bowls or trays).

9. If serving palabok or spaghetti, mix the sauce when the food is just ready to be served and consumed.

10. Allow guests to serve themselves so they can select what they would like to eat, and how much, to prevent unwanted food from being left on the plate.

11. If food will be pre-served, offer just enough quantities of food. Announce that everyone can come back for a second serving once they have cleared their plate. This is especially helpful for children who rarely know how much they can really eat at once.

12. As kids eat less than adults, adjust the size of meal portions and serve less than what you will normally give.

13. If you are hosting a children’s party, throw in a healthy competition to introduce the concept of zero food waste. Ask everyone to finish their food and reward the kids with the cleanest plates.

14. When faced with a large spread of dishes that all look tantalizing, let your taste buds (not your eyes) decide. To avoid “takaw-tingin” (get more than what you could chew), take sampler quantities first and then decide which ones you truly like and how large a serving you will take to avoid leaving stuff on your plate or suffering from dyspepsia.

15. Always put a clean and dry serving spoon and/or fork in every dish you serve to avoid quick spoilage of leftover food. Never take food from a serving platter or bowl with utensils you have put in your mouth.

16. “Gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted” (John 6:12) and store them safely: keep them wrapped, labelled and sealed in separate containers – to prevent cross-contamination – in the coolest portion of your refrigerator, if freezing is not advisable.

17. Recycle leftovers and use them up instead of throwing them away: meat and vegetables can be made into a delicious broth or chopped to make a tasty “sinangag” (fried rice). Bacon, ham or fish scraps can be used to make a flavorful pasta. Overripe fruits can be made into shakes, smoothies or jams. Stale bread can be turned into yummy pudding and “bahaw” (leftover rice) can be sun-dried and made into “ampaw” (puffed rice) snack. Exercise your imagination and creativity — it will save you money and help the environment!

18. Find new uses for damaged fruits and vegetables or scraps. For example, orange, pomelo or ponkan peels can be used as air fresheners. Jackfruit, pineapple and other fruit peels can be fermented into home-made vinegar.

19. Compost food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings and other kitchen discards to produce “garden food” to enrich depleted soils.

20. Avoid eating out. Celebrate the holidays at home where you can control the portions and the types of food and beverage to partake. Going for the family’s favourite dishes ensure no leftovers, “walang aksaya” (zero waste).


Reference re Edible Food Waste Data: