FAO in Sri Lanka

Save food. Tackling the urban food waste challenge in Sri Lanka.

To commemorate the International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste, Uber Eats joined forces with FAO to raise awareness on reducing food waste

Food connects everyone. People need it, depend on it, survive because of it and derive happiness from it. In fact, food is part of who we are as individuals and as communities. It’s part of our habits and cultures. Yet, an estimated 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. That amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of perfectly good and edible food which does not reach the end-consumer. Not only does this wastage create immense economic costs of around USD 1 trillion; waste also come at a high environmental and social price.

Approximately 800 million people across the globe suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 2000 million people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Due to food waste starting from wholesale right up to our tables, each step takes away a portion of food that could be available and accessible to those less fortunate.

Food waste is expected to be a growing problem in Sri Lanka, given the changes the country is undergoing linked to rapid urbanization as well as changes in diets and lifestyles. Sri Lanka produces a staggering 7,000 tons of solid waste per day, out of which an alarming 65% – 66% (by weight) consists of perishable organic material. This means that the average weight of the total food waste generated per day is approximately 3,963 tons, (FAO/IWMI).  Approximately half of the solid waste generated in the Western Province comes from the Colombo district and most of it is food waste.

Households are top contributors. A sample study conducted by FAO/IWMI in urban households, showed that on average food worth over LKR 1000 is wasted in a period of one week. An average of 34 kilograms of food is wasted in a week. Restaurants, food services and the retail sector are also some of the main contributors. 

Once it has been thrown away, food waste often occupies land that could have been used for other purposes. Transporting it to the landfill costs energy and money and produces CO2. Rotting away in landfills, wasted food pollutes the surrounding area and produces greenhouse gases that contribute climate change. There is also a heavy cost burden to the government in managing solid waste.

The studies conducted by FAO and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) since 2019 provided a basis for the formulation of a National Roadmap for the Ministry of Environment to tackle the Urban Food Waste challenge. The roadmap which was launched last month sets out an evidence based strategy and action plan to prevent/reduce food waste at wholesale, retail, food services and households.  FAO is also supporting the Ministry of Environment to set up a national platform on food waste that will bring everyone from the wholesale right up to the consumer to one platform to drive solutions to prevent/reduce food waste.

“Food waste is not just an economic or environmental argument. It is a moral obligation for each and every one of us to ensure that we reduce food waste. With millions of people going to bed hungry in the world, it is morally incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we do not waste the food that takes so much energy, labour and natural resources to produce,” said Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Rraising awareness about food waste

One of the main contributing factors towards food waste is a lack of knowledge and unsustainable consumption habits. The surprising fact is how little we really know about how much food is wasted, and where and why this happens. Therefore, food waste prevention and reduction starts with raising awareness among the actors of the supply chains on solutions.

FAO has worked with a wide range of stakeholders to promote awareness on food waste and to adopt a food use-not-waste approach. To commemorate the International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste which is marked on September 29, Uber Eats joined forces to raise awareness on the issue by sharing simple actions that people can take to reduce food waste. Simple actions like being conscious about portion sizes, using leftover food for another meal, making a shopping list before heading to the market, turning food waste into compost or donating surplus food that could feed another can go a long way in reducing food waste.

“We’re proud to be partnering with FAO for a cause that we, too, deeply believe in. There are countless people in the world who don’t have access to daily meals, and if we all work towards reducing wastage, we could ensure that many of them are fed. It all starts with simple steps; we can do our bit through very easy actions to ensure there’s no wastage,” stated Bhavna Dadlani, Head, Uber Eats Sri Lanka.

Everyone has a role to play by changing individual attitudes, behaviours, consumption and shopping habits related to food because it is imperative to understand there is never room for food waste!