​​Food Waste in Japan – How to Reduce Household Food Waste | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
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​​Food Waste in Japan – How to Reduce Household Food Waste

By Margherita Jun 14, 2024

Disposing of food waste not only wastes resources but also exacerbates environmental issues. The production and disposal of discarded food contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, water resource depletion, and land degradation, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity. 

This environmental burden jeopardizes food production and resource availability and undermines our current way of life. 

What Is Food Waste?

throwing away food waste in japan

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Food waste, the disposal of still-edible food, is a pressing issue in Japan. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported a staggering 5.23 million tons wasted in 2021. To put it in perspective, that’s about 1,433 10-ton trucks filled daily. 

Household and restaurant overproduction and leftovers contribute 1.05 and 0.8 million tons, respectively. Food retailers, like convenience stores, add another 600,000 tons. With around 57,000 convenience stores in Japan, tackling food loss is a daily challenge.

The SDG framework, established in 2015 to address climate change and environmental conservation, includes reducing food loss as a key target. Specifically, the goal is to cut food waste by 50% by 2030. Can Japan realistically achieve this target?

Japanese Convenience Stores: How Much Food Is Wasted?

Food loss in convenience stores stems from entrenched practices and consumer trends. The “One-Third Rule” dictates product rotation, leading to premature discarding. Mass display tactics aimed at avoiding stockouts result in unsold items, predominantly fried foods. “Convenience store accounting” shifts the loss burden to merchants, incentivizing over-ordering. 

Customer preference for fresher items perpetuates waste, and the demand for additive-free foods, while aligned with health trends, contributes to shorter shelf lives and subsequent disposal. Addressing these issues requires a new approach that evolves with consumer needs and promotes sustainable practices.

Household Food Waste: What Can We Do to Prevent Food Loss?

The 2.44 million tons of food waste coming directly from households every year are mainly due to leftovers, untouched food that gets disposed of directly, and over-peeled food.

Reducing food loss doesn’t always require grand gestures; even small efforts can make a big difference when we all pitch in. Here are some practical tips to cut down on food waste in everyday scenarios.

Start by avoiding overbuying at the grocery store, cooking only what you need, being mindful of portion sizes when dining out, and making sure to finish what you’ve served.

If you find yourself throwing away a lot of food at home, consider keeping a log of what, when, how much, and why you disposed of certain items. By reviewing this record, you can identify patterns of overbuying, overcooking, or hoarding. Focus on buying only what you’ll use, employing cooking techniques to utilize all ingredients, and maintaining organized and visible storage practices.

To enhance consumer awareness about food loss reduction, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) has developed posters and other materials for use by retailers and businesses, as well as useful educational materials and pamphlets for everyone to consult.

The “Food Loss Reduction Awareness Booklet”: ​​according to a demonstration project conducted by the Consumer Affairs Agency, simply measuring food loss can cut it by approximately 20%. Furthermore, actively measuring and implementing strategies can result in an impressive 40% reduction.

Furthermore, collaborative initiatives between local governments and restaurants are underway to tackle leftover food. In FY2021, the number of restaurants participating in such initiatives identified by local governments reached 22,586.

Addressing Food Waste: A Call to Action for Japan

composting food waste

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Reducing food waste is crucial due to its environmental, energy, and ethical implications. The transportation and incineration of discarded food contribute to CO2 emissions, while significant energy is expended in producing and disposing of excess food. Moreover, with an estimated 800 million people worldwide suffering from malnutrition, the ethical implications of disposing of large quantities of food are undeniable.

More Reads:

The Essential Guide to Zero Waste Shopping in Japan

Featured image credits: Canva.com