Scale 360 PH

What’s the problem in food waste?

While leading as the number 1 industry in the world, the agri-food industry has evolved to be one of the most resource-intensive. Present methods of food production account for 60% loss of topsoil in the last 150 years, 69% of freshwater usage, and contributes almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally, along with causing loss of biodiversity and deforestation. Putting this into perspective, the agri-food industry ranks as the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases if it were compared with emissions of other countries.

On top of this, it has been estimated that 1/3 of food produced globally never reaches our dinner tables every year, resulting in significant food wastage. At a national level, PIDS found that around 2,175 tons of food waste are produced in the Philippines daily. This equates to significant economic and environmental loss, as resources along the food supply chain are also wasted, such as packaging, manpower, water, and capital investment. Taking our staple food as an example, the amount of rice wasted in the Philippines on a daily basis is worth PHP23 million. Meanwhile, 7.6 million Filipino families have experienced hunger in the past 3 months as of 2020.

There is great opportunity to improve our existing food systems to ensure that no family goes hungry, while doing so economically and sustainably. It has been estimated that just a 50-75% reduction in food waste by 2050 could result in avoided emissions equal to 10.3 to 18.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

1/3 of food produced globally never reaches our dinner tables every year, resulting in significant food wastage.

1/3 of food produced globally never reaches our dinner tables every year, resulting in significant food wastage.

How did Scale360˚ Philippines tackle the problem?

Scale360° Philippines introduced the Tapon to Tanim initiative as part of its Food Pillar. This initiative aims to pilot a viable circular food system in the Philippines by leveraging these three key components: effective food waste management, composting techniques, and urban gardening.

Why make food circular?

Topsoil or the uppermost layer of soil is one of the most important components of the agri-food system, growing 95% of our food globally. Our current linear food system has led to the loss of 60% of topsoil in the last 150 years, threatening crop yields and food production for future generations. With the agri-food industry operating predominantly on extractive and intensive farming systems, soil productivity and fertility have been negatively affected. This leads to serious nutrient deficiencies in harvested crops, and limits the capacity of our soil to provide the necessary nutrients.

Concurrently, we are re-capturing less than 2% of produced organic waste and its contained nutrients. At our current rate of 2.8 billion tons of food and human waste created each year, improving nutrient capture presents significant opportunity to unlock economic value while helping to regenerate natural ecosystems. This along with reducing edible food waste and using organic materials for new cycles can unlock an economic opportunity upwards of $700 billion. Communities can then reap benefits from alleviated nutrition and hunger challenges and increased crop yield to protect natural ecosystems. Transforming our current agri-food system into one that is circular allows us to sustain future generations by ensuring that we maintain the soil and ecosystem needed to grow crops.

How do we make it circular?

Guided by the circular principles, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation proposes these three key ambitions to change the global food system:
1. Sourcing food grown regeneratively, and locally where appropriate
2. Designing and marketing healthier food products
3. Making the most of food

Improving on current farming practices that are extractive and intensive, regenerative practices put a focus on improving the overall health of an ecosystem while growing the crops needed to feed the population. Examples of these are agroecology, rotational grazing, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and permaculture. Furthermore, the EMF highlights sourcing food locally only when it makes sense, taking into account best fitting local climate conditions that allow the growth of certain crops. Figures that have major influence here such as food brands, restaurants, chefs, and major institutions can play a big role in forging this path by designing and marketing healthier food products. These institutions can make conscious decisions to source food sustainably and create demand for certain produce.

Society is also pushed to find ways to make the most of food, reinventing systems to design out waste and instead feed produce back to other systems. New materials from by-products such as packaging, construction materials, fashion pieces, and pharmaceuticals are just a few examples of designing out waste. A possible component that is already being implemented in numerous countries is the composting and anaerobic digestion of organic waste, allowing nutrients to return to agricultural land for future planting cycles. In the Philippines, the City Government of Marikina has successfully ran the Food Waste Truck Program, collecting kitchen waste from restaurants and food stalls. This organic waste is then converted into fertilizers for the City’s urban garden.