China’s campaign to reduce food wastes

How to reduce food wastes? China’s “clear your plate” campaign

More than 1.05 BILLION tonnes of food were wasted worldwide in 2022. In other words, each person wasted more than 132 kilograms of food on average.

That astonishing number came to spotlight with the release of a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report days ahead of the the International Day of Zero Waste on March 30.

How can we stop this mind-boggling waste, especially in a time when numerous people are starving in different parts of the world?

In China, one of the world’s most populous countries, the food waste problem is also serious. And you know, as one of the largest food consuming countries, China must take this seriously.

In 2013, China launched a nationwide movement dubbed “clear your plate” campaign to curb food waste. The campaign aims at raising people’s awareness to reduce food waste. Publicity efforts were launched across the country. In the past 10 years, avoid wasting food has gradually evolved into a trend among the Chinese people.

In 2022, the amount of food wastes from restaurants tables across the country decreased by 11.2% since 2013, and the cost of waste disposal dropped by 6.7%, according to the China Hotel Association.

People are more open to simplified weddings instead of extravagant banquets, buying near-expired food became a new fad among young people, and restaurant goers have grown used to asking for packaging for unfinished dishes.

Then came the law.

Chinese lawmakers voted to adopt an anti-food waste law in 2021. The law, designed to help establish a long-term mechanism to prevent food waste, is vital to ensure national food security.

The law stipulates that:

1. catering service providers can charge a disposal fee from customers who leave excessive amounts of food waste;

2. local governments at or above the county level shall inform the public on the developments in their anti-food waste work every year and propose measures to step up the efforts

3. online bloggers will be banned from livestreaming binge eating.

Furthermore, at the beginning of this year (2024), China’s top legislature adopted a food security law aimed at ensuring the supply of grain and related products . The law, which contains a chapter dedicated to food conservation, laid down requirements for reducing food waste throughout various processes, ranging from grain production to consumption. It will take effect on June 1, 2024.

And more surveys are on the way to monitor the effect of these measures.

In 2023, China inaugurated a nationwide survey on food waste, which covers catering business owners as well as residents. By 2025, the survey will be further expanded to cover around 100 cities and even down to the county level.

With the help of new technologies and equipment, waste is expected to be further reduced in every process of the food industry, from harvest, conservation, processing to consumption.

If China can reduce loss ratio in those processes by 1 to 3 percentage points by 2035, the country can reduce the loss of its three staple food crops by 40 percent, or 55 billion kilograms, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

From China’s “clear your plate” campaign, we can tell that public awareness, legislation and technology are some of the key pieces to the puzzle of the persistent problem of food wasting on the planet.

The task of avoiding food wasting is still tough. Please share your ideas and experiences in your country. Your ideas and experiences can help more.

By Ying Xue, Thanks to my colleague Ge Chen in helping me collect figures and doing translation for this post.

SourceChina Ecological Civilization, 29 Mar, 2024.…/how-to-reduce…