The waste of food

Whoever has gone to a traditional chinese dinner/lunch, or even to regular restaurants here in China, must’ve asked themselves: “why such an amount of food?”. This is a phenomenon that really catches our attention, for walking in the opposite side of the current movement of sustainability with individual awareness.

Satire published at China Daily newspaper about the chinese habits on the table (

Satire published at China Daily newspaper about the chinese habits on the table (

Let’s go to data: the food waste in the world, if considered a country, would have the third place on the ranking list of the biggest generators of carbon dioxide, only behind China and USA.
Only in China, more than 82 million tons of grains are going to waste each year (that not considering the water and land used in the whole process), that is, 19% of the total production!
This amount could feed more than 200 million persons, almost 1/6 of China population! The most wastage is of fruits and veggies, corresponding to 20 to 30% of total production of the Country, followed by eggs(5-15%) and meat(3-15%). The population itself is responsible for 7% of the waste, and the restaurants for 3 times more! The rest of all this food waste is lost in all the stages involved until it gets to final consumer.

But the question about the final consumer is: is he aware of your responsibility on all this waste and its implications on the demand/production, and also on the future effects of it? I don’t think so.
The famous and controversial so called “emerging middle class” or “nouveau riches” of China, thinks that ordering abundant food is to attest their fortune and power. The more food, the more prosperous a person is. It’s all about status! And this habit is becoming very common, even on the real middle class, that has adhered to “let’s show money on the table”. Almost half of all the ordered food goes to waste, sometimes even untouched.

If there was the habit of taking away the leftover food of their order, maybe the problem wouldn’t be so huge. But that, unfortunately, is not a part of the chinese habits. In business meetings, they order enough plates to fill in completely the table, and as soon it ends, it’s immediately replaced with a full new one, but take-away? Not an option! They can’t “loose their faces” in front of the colleagues, a “to go” plate/lunch box or whatever, would be an inferiority credential…
This unfortunate habit of wanting to show themselves through meal has a very destructive impact for the rest of the world, together with all the waste already involved when it comes to food. If there was a more efficient and responsible consumption, we could have a beneficial and really productive impact on minimising the already known damage that gas emission causes on the atmosphere. Of course I don’t have the pretension to say that only the bad chinese habits on the table are responsible for all the global warming, I’m only saying that if everybody do the homework properly, we can start to walk together on the right direction!
But all is not lost! There is already an awareness of some reaturantes owners in Beijing and many other chinese cities, that have diminished the size of the portions and have developed a rewarding system, for those clients that didn’t waste/took away their untouched food.
A campaign called “clean plate action” took place on Weibo website(platform of communication/information very used in China) on the beginning of last year, and has already obtained a lot of acceptance and militancy of many chinese citizens, mainly of the new generation- they even take pictures of their “clean plates” to post on the site, as a way of launching the action. The call for less waste and avoiding excessive consumption has had more than 50 million exhibitions, and awaits to attract even more media attention.

Staff encouraging conscious consumption in Qingdao, Shandong Province (

Staff encouraging conscious consumption in Qingdao, Shandong Province (

The cultural issue is very ingrained in chinese citizens, knowing that the Country has been closed to all kinds of ocidental influencies during a long time; but now it’s time for China to realize that, if they don’t stop certains habits of unbounded consumption, the whole world is gonna suffer the consequences.
Fortunately, this new generation is already aware of the new responsible consumption habits, and surely will play the main role on this novel, that is far away from a happy ending…
Clik HERE for tips on how to have a responsible consumption at home!
Au revoir!


One thought on “The waste of food

  1. lmjapan says:

    It’s terrible to hear this is going on in China, especially in light of the fact that there are plenty of poor people in that country who having trouble putting food on the table.

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