Harvard School of Public Health defines food waste as “food that is fit for consumption but consciously discarded at the retail or consumption phases”. As the fourth most populated country in the world, Indonesia is also the fourth largest producer of food waste, producing as much as 20.93 tonnes each year. In 2022, food waste accounted for around 40% of the total waste in landfills. 


One of the concerns is that the decomposition of food waste produces a large amount of methane. According to Reuters, Methane produced by food decomposing in landfills makes up 1.6% of all human-made Greenhouse Gas emissions (Levine & Chung, 2023). Methane is a gas that contributes to the warming of the earth, leading to the degradation of ecosystems and harmful effects on our health. 

Producing food is also a resource-intensive process that requires a lot of land, water, and fertilizers. And such a large area of land is typically acquired through the unethical practice of deforestation. Deforestation is the purposeful clearing of forested land, and results in major loss of natural habitats and displacement of wild animals. As a result, wildlife becomes unable to thrive, pushing many species to the brink of extinction. 

The World Bank states that an estimated 70% of all freshwater withdrawals globally are used for agriculture. However, around 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, meaning that food waste is also water wasted. Not to mention, intensive agricultural practices also contributed to the leeching of waste and chemicals into freshwater resources, rendering them unsuitable for consumption. 

Food waste is also a social issue. In Indonesia, 68% of the population does not have access to nutritious meals. A 2020 data by the Government Statistical Body (BPS) shows that 8.34% of the population still struggle to feed themselves. It makes us wonder whether we should take such resources for granted when millions still struggle to have them. 

What Causes Food Waste? 

One of the reasons is that many people still lack access to proper food storage methods. Never mind a fridge when many still struggle to afford food. As a result, produce spoils faster, leaving no choice but to be discarded.

The bigger reason is the lack of knowledge about food waste. Based on a 2021 survey done in Indonesia, it was found that 73% of respondents knew that food wastes end up in landfills, yet 62% of respondents were unaware of the dangers of food waste (Susilo, 2021). We have come to normalize prioritizing the aesthetics of our food and easily throwing out those we deem imperfect. For example, the EU has regulations that define the ideal cucumber for sale. Cucumbers are classed into 4 categories: Extra Class, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. This depends on the curvature of the cucumber, with a straight cucumber being classed as the ideal in Extra class. Although the sale of curved cucumbers is not prohibited, such regulations are bound to alter society’s expectations of a cucumber, meaning that a curved cucumber will be viewed less favorably. 

The Industrial Revolution brought more efficient farming processes, allowing us to produce more than enough food for the population. As food becomes something so easily attainable, we begin to take it for granted, leading us to over-purchase and consume more than we need. As a result, throwing food out becomes easier. 

How can we limit our food waste? 

With that being said, we can each still do our part in reducing the food waste that our household produces. First, we should address the root of food waste by curbing over-consumption and purchasing when we are running our grocery errands. We can do this by planning out our meals and buying things we are sure we will finish. 

Composting is a natural process of repurposing food waste into a valuable fertilizer that enriches the soil and our plants. It is straightforward, making it accessible for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about it, here are some resources you can refer to: 

Another option is to donate excess food to food banks and pantries around you. They are non-profit organizations that gather, prepare, and distribute food to food pantries and meal programs, and it is a great way to reduce your food waste while helping others. Just make sure that you study the guidelines of what foods these organizations accept, and do not treat them like another landfill. Some Indonesian food banks include: