Beijing’s radical law to curb consumer-level food wastage

CHINA – It may soon be extremely expensive for consumers living in the Chinese city of Beijing to waste food. 

 According to a report by Xinhua news agency, the city is debating a new law that requires eateries to deploy people who will warn customers against extravagant dining and food wastage.

According to the draft law, the person tasked with this unique responsibility will be required to remind diners to pack leftovers and caution against placing excessive orders.

The draft law also requires catering service providers to sell dishes of smaller portions, which are popular among single or couple diners and stipulates that offenders may face warnings or fines of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,537).

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Food waste has substantial environmental impact

Food waste has substantial environmental impact.  An estimated 8%-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed, when losses before consumer level are taken into account.

Since 2012, the Chinese government has been highlighting the issue of food waste, rolling out mitigation policies and a nationwide “Clear Your Plates” campaign to curb the social phenomenon.

Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization report.

Moreover, The Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimates that 931 million tonnes of food, or 17% of total food available to consumers in 2019, went into the waste bins of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services.

 “In China, about 17 million tonnes of food was estimated to be wasted each year, enough to feed some 30 million to 50 million people,”

UN Food and Agriculture organization

The report shows that most of this waste comes from households, which discard 11% of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain. Food services and retail outlets waste 5% and 2% respectively.

 On a global per capita-level, 121 kilograms of consumer level food is wasted each year, with 74 kilograms of this happening in households.

 In China, about 17 million tonnes of food was estimated to be wasted each year, enough to feed some 30 million to 50 million people.

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Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP  says, “If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste.”

The draft law if passed, would be a major step towards addressing the food wastage problem in Beijing and could potentially be a model that could be replicated in other Chinese cities in future.

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