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Circular Economy Will Win Indonesia's War Against Food Waste. Here's Why.

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Jakarta - Every second, around six garbage trucks full of edible food is either lost or wasted. How something that everyone considers as one of, if not, the most basic necessities in life can end up in the bin like it’s nothing is mind-boggling, to say the least [1].

A bag of mainly fresh apples spilled on concrete floor
So much food go to waste, even though they still have so much use

Source: Jasmin Sessler [10]

According to the UN Environment, the amount of food loss and waste results in a total of US $310 billion, while developed countries waste twice the amount[2]. The extent of this amount of food wastage is due to varying reasons [3]. Additionally, the amount of food waste produced in today’s age has become more detrimental to the environment rather than just mere “organic waste”.

For every dollar spent on buying food, the society pays double in health, environmental and economic costs and these costs are a direct result of the linear nature of our modern food production, which is highly wasteful and polluting [1]. For example, food waste produces methane—a greenhouse gas, which is more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of climate change, according to WWF [4].

Estimates predict that by 2050, 5 million people could die from causes related to food production systems, such as air or water pollution, exposure to pesticides, or antibiotic overuse [1].


Indonesia’s Food Waste Problem

Currently, Indonesia is the second-largest food waste producer in the world. Inadequate infrastructure, culture and high cosmetic standards are some reasons why the problem has reached its present height [7].

In addition to that, Surplus, a non-profit organization based in Indonesia whose goal is to prevent food waste by reselling unsold food at a cheaper price, also pointed out that food preparations in Indonesia are usually done without much care in getting the most out of food, leaving so much edible food in the bin. They also added, “they have observed local sellers throwing out their unsold foods rather than donating or selling the foods at a cheaper price.”

While the government has made some legal frameworks, there is still a lack of enforcement and also of the issue throughout the country, creating an urgent need for community-driven solutions in order to prevent more organic waste from getting landfilled [8].


How shifting to a circular economy can solve our food waste problem

Over the years, the circular economy has offered a real fighting chance to tackle many of our environmental issues, including food waste, by transforming the current food system to be regenerative in nature. This means using techniques that would replenish and improve the overall ecosystem’s health, such as by using greater crop variation to promote biodiversity [1].

Another area of focus is converting organic waste into a source of value [5]. For example, the European Union (EU) has started embracing the principles of the circular economy in efforts to reduce food waste at each level of production and consumption by the year 2030, in support of the goal from the UN for Sustainable Development [6]. Some companies have even begun converting their food waste into eating utensils and other marketable products [5].


Following the footsteps made by the EU, Indonesia can make its food system circular to reduce and even eliminate food waste [9]. However, such a shift would require a cultural shift in which we see food as something of value rather than commodities, especially the ones that are left uneaten. Examples include redistributing excess food to the hungry as well as turning inedible foods into biofuel, fertilizers and potential medicine [1].

Another warning: this system is powered by collaborative effort, meaning everyone, from the government to individual consumers, must work together to support this shift and ultimately, its day-to-day execution [9].

A bunch of rotting fruits left on the ground of a dried grassy area
There are other ways food can be useful, they do not need to end up as trash

Source: Joshua Hoehne [11]

Surplus noted that transitioning into a circular economy will be a challenge for Indonesia, but it shouldn’t discourage the nation to follow the path.

Indonesia would need to move to a circular economy to help deal with the food waste problem, similar to the way the EU has implemented the practice. This shift would be more sustainable and is a healthier option for the environment.


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