A large amount of food is poured out of containers. The “mountains of waste food” are discarded even though they can still be eaten. Japan Food Ecology Center, a food recycling company located in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, is continuing its epoch-making “regeneration activities” that could be a savior for the serious food loss situation.
The problem of food loss is by no means an isolated incident. Not only is a large amount of food being wasted, but it is also putting pressure on our daily lives. Tomio Kobayashi, a professor at Japan Women’s University and a specialist in food system theory, explains.
In fiscal 2008, food loss amounted to 5.22 million tons. Per capita, this amounts to 42 kg per year. The economic loss is also significant. The cost of incineration of waste food by local governments is about 250 billion yen, simply calculated. The source of funds is taxes. Each citizen pays more than 2,000 yen per year to throw away food that could be eaten.
The “Standards System” and the “One-third Rule
In Japan, about 1,430 10-ton truckloads of food are disposed of every day. Why does this amount of waste occur? Mr. Kobayashi continues.
There are a variety of factors, but one is the strict “standards system. When vegetables and fruits are put on the wholesale market, there is a set standard for each. If they are flawed or misshapen, they are discarded as not meeting the standards.
The food industry’s customary practices also have a large impact. A typical example is the “one-third rule. For example, if there are three months between the date of manufacture and the expiration date, one-third, or one month, passes before the product is ready for delivery and cannot be shipped to stores. After two thirds of the way through the second month, unsold food is returned to the manufacturer and thrown away.
Food loss also occurs at sports festivals. According to a report released by the Board of Audit last December, of the approximately 1.6 million boxed lunches provided to staff members at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2009, about 20%, or 300,000 meals, were disposed of without being eaten.
The Japan Food Ecology Center, introduced at the beginning of this article, is reusing discarded food in an effort to break out of this situation. Takumiichi Takahashi, president of the company, said, “We are throwing away edible food at taxpayers’ expense.
We have created a recycling loop to eliminate the waste of throwing away edible food at taxpayers’ expense. First, waste food is brought in from food-related companies. The waste is then crushed into a paste, sterilized, and fermented before being delivered to pig farmers for use as feed. The meat from the pigs fed on the low-cost, highly nutritious feed is then sent back to the food supplier.
The company’s activities also have other benefits.
The invasion of Ukraine and the new Corona virus have caused grain prices to skyrocket. It would be more efficient than going out of our way to buy expensive grain from overseas to make feed,” says Takahashi.
The reuse of grains is spreading to retailers as well. One retailer that sells “off-spec vegetables,” which can be purchased cheaply, is Hiroya Shikigawa, who runs the Daikanyama Grocery Store in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.
We offer an all-you-can-pack service for substandard vegetables. The basic price is 300 yen. Children are delighted when they see that vegetables come in all shapes and sizes and have their own individuality.
Even if they are misshapen or have flaws, they taste the same. Food can also be used in a sustainable way.
From the February 3, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
Photographed by： Hiroyuki Komatsu