How Japan reduces food waste

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Environment, Food Waste

Editor’s Note: Food waste isn’t just a Canadian problem – it’s a global issue with devastating impacts on climate change and hunger. All over the world, countries struggle to ensure good food ends up on plates instead of landfills, and many have developed unique strategies to face this crisis head-on.

In the next few months, The Harvest Journal will explore food waste policies around the world and highlight what different countries are doing to prevent and reduce waste, build more sustainable and resilient food systems, protect our planet and finally put an end to food waste.

In 2019, the Japanese government introduced the Act on Promotion of Food Loss and Waste Reduction to prevent still-edible food from being discarded. The law promotes understanding of food waste and stipulates a basic policy to reduce food loss and waste. All levels of government, businesses and consumers are encouraged to work together to tackle this challenge as a national movement. October is set as the Food Loss Reduction Month.

Some key initiatives include:

  • Extending the best before date on consumer products
  • Recycling food wastes into fertilizer and feed
  • Creating business incentives for those in the food supply chain
  • Support food bank activities

Japan also has a global reputation for its innovative and minimal lifestyle. The culture adopts the Mottainai mindset, meaning “don’t waste what is valuable.” The Act on Promotion of Food Loss and Waste Reduction supports the Mottainai way of being by promoting sustainability and repurposing of materials. From the home to public places, the act will have to evolve with the changes in demographics to fight climate change, reduce food waste and support an aging population. Japan is on the precipice of significant change. However, culturally, it is something they are prepared for.

In line with the government’s direction, many Japanese businesses have taken steps to reduce the amount of avoidable food waste. Lawson, one of the country’s largest convenience store operators, uses an AI software to inform its decision to discount a product based on a specific store’s sales, delivery times and weather conditions to improve its chances of being sold.

At an individual level, Matsumoto City in the Nagano Prefecture ran the “Let’s Eat Up Everything! 30/10” Campaign, which encourages people to reduce leftovers by remaining seated and enjoy eating for 30 minutes after a toast and 10 minutes before the end of a meal.

Even spending time auditing your food waste can help reduce the amount of food loss by about 20 per cent, according to findings from a project by The Consumer Affairs Agency in Tokushima Prefecture.

Elsewhere in Japan, there are also projects that have seen food scraps turned into concrete, lard from ramen used to power public transit and even furniture made from egg shells. Read more in this article from the Washington Post.