Waste not, want not
Bangladesh goes two steps up in ranking from 70th position to 68th in 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI). Global Hunger Index is a report jointly prepared and published by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. Although it is a good news especially in terms of eradicating hunger and reducing poverty, nonetheless, the country's hunger situation still remains 'alarming' as defined by the index criterion of the published report.
Food and food waste has been an emerging global problem for the past few years. With accelerated economic growth and increasing production, food waste will be a matter of grave concern also in Bangladesh sooner or later. Bangladesh, being the ninth most populous and twelfth most densely populated country in the world will surely bear consequences of both food scarcity as well as food loss if food wastage problem is not addressed.
Today is World Environment Day and it is celebrated every year on 5th of June all over the globe. The theme is set about by UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) every year and this year's theme is Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Foodprint. It is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger. Approximately 98% of the world's hungry live in developing nations. Bangladesh, being an LDC and an emerging economy, still has most of its regions poverty stricken. 49% of the country's population still living below national poverty line. In order to address problems strategically, food and food wastage problems will pose serious challenges indeed in the years to come.
Food, food waste and the environment are inextricably linked. Food that is thrown away when it could have been sold or eaten is wasted. But it is more than just the food itself. It is also a waste of all the natural resources that are used to produce, harvest, transport, process, package and distribute the food product. Have you ever wondered that scrapping leftovers into the bin contributes directly to climate change? When wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, together with organic materials, it becomes the main contributor to generation of methane a gas, 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in atmosphere. Food waste has an environmental impact caused by the loss of natural resources used to produce the food and the greenhouse gas emissions created during its production and disposal. The fact that food is wasted amongst a fixed class group while rest 49% of the country's population are going to bed hungry means it surely has a social impact.
Bangladesh being an agrarian economy should be more proactive in handling pre-consumption food wastage as food system represents a great part of our carbon footprint. According to Waste Database of Bangladesh (published by Waste Concern), food and vegetable waste comprises approximately 67.75% of urban solid waste. From Year 1991 to Year 2005, per capita waste generation rate in urban areas have been increased from 0.31 to 0.41.It has been further projected that by the year 2025, per capita waste generation rate in urban areas will increase to 0.60. With waste generation increasing in direct proportion with GDP and population, food waste will be a challenging issue indeed.
Pre-consumer waste is generated at many points in the food supply chain including manufacture, processing, storing and retailing. Traditional farming practices like clearing, cultivating, irrigating, spraying, fertilizing and cropping can impact our environment and combined with the introduction of pesticides and occurrence of, soil loss, dry land and salinity intrusion, have changed our landscape for worse. Inefficient farming methods and lack of knowledge amongst the farmers on efficient handling and usage of agricultural techniques have already contributed to the effects of climate change.
Other than food supply chain, pre-consumer food waste may also result from overproduction, spoilage, products not meeting the demands of food retailing and wholesaling sectors (size and aesthetic) and food preparation. Although half of the country's population is still below poverty line, the urban upper class group and the emerging dominant middle class is a contributing group to food wastage.
Food is also wasted after purchase. Post-consumer food waste is the food that is thrown away after it has been purchased by the customer. Such waste includes customer plate wastes from restaurants, or any food purchased from a retail store but then not properly eaten.
If current trend in our consumption pattern continues in such wasteful manner mentioned above, Bangladesh will need to produce about twice as much food by 2050 in a changing climate with higher prices for energy, water and fertilizers. By swapping our wasteful habits for a more sustainable approach to buying, preparing and managing our food, we can all play a part in bringing about significant environmental and greenhouse benefits. We can all reduce the environmental impact by changing our actions towards food production and food waste when we grow and buy local produces and support sustainable farming.
Md. Touhidul Alam Khan ACMA is SEVP, Head of Corporate Assets & Client Origination and Team Leader of Green Banking Unit, Bank Asia Limited and Raisa Rahim is Team Member of Green Banking Unit of Bank Asia Limited. They can be reached: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org