Lessons from Korea’s food waste policies

Lessons from Korea’s food waste policies

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. 

There are few countries where food waste is processed on a larger scale as in Korea. In 2005, the government banned throwing food waste to landfills before implementing compulsory composting nationally in 2013. By 2019, a whopping 95% of Korea’s food waste was converted into fertilizer, biogas and animal feed. What’s behind the success of this system that has become a model for many in the world to follow?  

An integrated and well-executed policy 

Overall, Korea has an integrated and well-executed policy involving a balance of financial incentives, public participation and noncompliance enforcement. Investments in supporting infrastructure reflect the government’s priority and commitment to tackling waste. 

The efficient waste management system goes together with awareness and education campaigns to tackle food waste at the source. For example, restaurants are encouraged to serve fewer and smaller side dishes to reduce leftovers from a typical traditional meal, while bars offer different menus for standard and small food quantities. By keeping track of their monthly garbage collection bill, people become mindful of their consumption and adjust their habits accordingly.

A circular economy

The Korean government subsidizes public recycling facilities that convert food waste into feed, compost or biogas, reducing the environmental impact of its disposal.  

In a Seoul suburb, biogas recycled from liquid food waste is used to heat 3,000 homes in the area. Meanwhile, solid scraps are processed into nutrition supplements for livestock—this saves money and farmland needed to grow crops for animal feed. Fertilizers made from food waste are given away to support farmers and urban farm initiatives.  

A tax on food waste 

Korea practices a “Pay-as-You-Waste” scheme, where residents are charged based on the weight of their food waste. An average four-person family only pays around $6 per month.  

How to dispose of food waste in Korea 

  • In biodegradable bags: You can only dispose of food in designated bags sold in grocery stores in different sizes and prices.  
  • Stickers: Purchase food waste stickers in grocery stores and attach them to specific bins distributed by the government when you throw out your food. The garbage collectors will not empty the bin if they don’t see the stickers.  
  • Radio Frequency Identification (“RFID”) technology: Bins installed with an electric scale and RFID weigh food waste as it’s deposited. The bin will only open if a person scans their household identification card. At the end of the month, they will be informed of the charges. 

As nearly 80% of food waste is moisture, households are encouraged to squeeze out the liquid before depositing their waste to reduce its weight. This also helps the city save on transportation costs.  

Follow Natasha on her truck ride-along

Follow Natasha on her truck ride-along

Editor’s Note: Natasha Bowes, our Senior Manager, Philanthropy, recently saw the direct impact of Second Harvest’s efforts during a truck ride-along. She joined our driver Hektor as he delivered rescued food to several agencies and programs Second Harvest supports, thanks to the continued support of our donors.

She shared her experience with our CEO Lori Nikkel in an email, which we reproduced below.

Hi Lori!

I took part in my annual ride-along and it was an eye-opening and inspiring experience! Thank you for making this part our annual staff development, it truly helped me understand the work we do, on a deeper level.

On a chilly, drizzly Wednesday morning a few weeks ago, and I had the privilege of joining one of our amazing Second Harvest drivers for their delivery route. As the day began at 7 a.m. amidst the bustling heart of the Second Harvest warehouse, our truck was being filled with nutritious surplus food, including chicken, ground beef, sausage, dairy products, yogurt and more!

We had a clear mission that day to deliver over 7,240 pounds of rescued food to 12 partner organizations who help feed our city’s most vulnerable communities.

Our first stop brought us to a local food bank. The volunteers receiving the food shared that before the pandemic, they helped 70 individuals weekly. But now this foodbank is lifeline for over 425 families and individuals every week, and they rely on Second Harvest for most of that food.

In that moment I was both shocked, and full of hope, as it reinforced for me ‘why’ Second Harvest is such an impactful charity.

This food bank is lucky, and has a dedicated group of bike-delivery volunteers who help bring our food directly to the doors of people in need. It means that people like Sarah, a homebound individual, can eat a healthy, balanced diet and as such – she can now pay for her medications, something she couldn’t do before receiving food deliveries.

At our next destination, I met Mark, a resilient fellow grappling with the recent loss of both parents. Mark thanked me for the food delivery and asked me to send his thanks to everyone at Second Harvest! He explained that breaking bread and making friends at the community center helped him through his loneliness and grief.

It made me smile, knowing our donors gifts go beyond the actual food we deliver, it creates communities and social cohesion and the benefits go way beyond its nutritional value. It brings people together, combats poor mental health, fights loneliness, increases self- worth and esteem.

Our delivery route took us to a vibrant neighbourhood, one of city’s most diverse, where Chef Tony was brimming with excitement. He envisioned transforming surplus food into delectable dishes that nourish bodies and uplift the spirits of people struggling with homelessness and substance use. This drop-in program provides immediate life-saving services, including nutritious meals, shelter from the elements, crisis counseling, and facilities like washrooms, showers, and laundry.

Our last stop of the day was at another food bank, where the impact of our efforts was unmistakable. Kevin and his dedicated team of volunteers orchestrated the unloading process with practiced efficiency, transforming our truck’s cargo into bundles of hope. This specific food bank receives multiple deliveries from Second Harvest weekly; it serves as a lifeline for the community’s growing needs.

This opportunity for a truck ride-along reinforced what I believe so deeply – that the impact of Second Harvest’s programs extends far beyond nourishing empty stomachs.

The food we deliver is more than just a meal; it weaves a beautiful tapestry of nourishment, comfort, community, dignity, and respect. It also helps us protect the planet we live on…a dual benefit.

Thank you, Lori, for inspiring us all to take part in these types of experiences so we can see first-hand the impact we are having on so many lives and in the process helping our planet too.

Have a great day and thank you again,


The need for your support has never been greater. Second Harvest’s efforts last year provided food to over 4.8 million individuals from coast to coast to coast. With your generosity, we can help even more individuals and families.

Truckloads of fun for a good cause

Truckloads of fun for a good cause

On September 12, 2023, the Second Harvest Truck Pull Challenge returned, and we were inspired by the overwhelming support from all participants and spectators.

A total of 29 teams competed head-to-head

in a tournament format to see who could pull a 20,000-pound Second Harvest delivery truck across Nathan Phillips Square in the shortest time. This event was more than just a physical feat; it was a powerful statement against food waste and food insecurity in Canada.  

Through sponsorships and generous donations from teams and their supporters, the event raised $148,577 to help Second Harvest continue our mission. These funds will enable us to rescue even more surplus

food and distribute it to communities all across Canada.  

Congratulations to the winning teams from each Wave!

Wave 1: Realstar – 13:09 seconds 
Wave 2: Labtician – 12:78 seconds   
Wave 3: Team Reliance – 12:72 seconds 
Wave 4: Telus Cyber Security – 14:38 seconds

The Truck Pull Challenge also left participants and spectators with a deeper understanding of food waste in Canada through many fun activations on-site, including a fresh produce market sponsored by Toronto Wholesale Produce Association. In the Freshness Faceoff, participants tested their taste buds by trying different foods and guessing their best-before date. Remember: Best-before does not mean bad-after!  

While waiting for their turn, teams got inked with temporary tattoos by artists from Black Line Studios and relaxed at the Massage tent, courtesy of Protégé Massage School. Papa Johns and Starbucks ensured all truck pullers were well fed and energized throughout the event. 

A big thank you to all teams for your lasix over the counter participation and fundraising efforts. Without you, the event wouldn’t have been a success. We’re also grateful for the generosity of our sponsors and partners and the support of our dedicated volunteers. Thank you for joining us in the fight against food waste and food insecurity.  

Together, we can make a tangible difference in the health of our planet and the lives of those struggling with food insecurity.  

Finland’s holistic approach to tackling food waste and food insecurity

Finland’s holistic approach to tackling food waste and food insecurity

Finland is widely recognized as a global leader in sustainability and environmental responsibility. With a commitment to diminishing the environmental impact of food waste and enhancing food security, the country has implemented a range of pioneering strategies and initiatives. Here’s an overview of Finland’s

food waste policy and its broader food policies. 

Food waste policy 

Food waste is a pressing global issue with detrimental environmental, economic, and social consequences. Finland has responded to this challenge with clear objectives and initiatives designed to reduce food waste along the supply chain, bolster recovery efforts and promote sustainable consumption. 

Underpinning these efforts is legislation. In 2021, Finland

amended the Finnish Food Act to mandate that food businesses report their food waste data, fostering transparency and accountability. 

Collaboration is a cornerstone of Finland’s food waste reduction strategy. Public-private partnerships, like the Finnish Food Rescue Association, work closely with retailers, restaurants and producers to redirect surplus food to those in need. This approach not only reduces waste but also addresses food insecurity. 

Education and awareness campaigns also play an integral role. Initiatives like “Best Before – Good After” are designed to change consumer behaviour by providing information on food expiration dates and promoting the use of leftover ingredients. 

The principles of the circular economy, including reducing, reusing, and recycling, are also applied to food systems to minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency. 

Food Policies 

Beyond addressing food waste, Finland has implemented a comprehensive set of food policies that prioritize sustainability, health and quality throughout the supply chain. 

The country encourages local and sustainable sourcing to reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation. It’s a practice often seen in public institutions, such as schools and hospitals. 

To support organic

farming practices, the government provides subsidies and incentives to farmers who transition to organic methods, which promote healthier ecosystems and reduce chemical inputs in agriculture.  

The Finnish National Nutrition Council advocates for healthy eating habits, emphasizing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dietary guidelines also encourage the use of plant-based proteins, contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat production. 

Finland invests significantly in research and innovation in the food sector. Initiatives such as Food Tech Finland stimulate the development of sustainable and innovative food products and technologies. 

With its comprehensive approach that encompasses legislative measures, collaborative initiatives, educational campaigns and support for sustainable practices throughout the food supply chain, Finland continues to serve as a global model for responsible and sustainable food systems. The country’s policies offer inspiration to others seeking to address the multifaceted challenges of food waste and environmental sustainability. 

When you waste food, you’re also wasting water

When you waste food, you’re also wasting water

One of the most celebrated days in the UN calendar, World Food Day takes place every year on October 16. It’s an occasion to bring attention to food insecurity worldwide and promote actions to solve this challenge together. 

This year’s World Food Day prednisone over the counter highlights the importance of water, a precious resource vital to our well-being, agricultural and industrial needs, as well as the health of our planet. 

Water is the foundation of life and food

While about 71 per cent of the earth surface is water, only 2.5 per cent is freshwater that can be used for drinking, growing food and

manufacturing goods. Unfortunately, that supply is dwindling, due to factors such as urbanization, overpopulation, pollution, among others. 

Of all the available freshwater, 72 per cent goes to agriculture every year and the number is expected to increase 35 per cent by 2050. Meanwhile, 2.4 billion people live in countries that are stressed for water. 

An average person consumes 5,000 litres of freshwater a day, but only a small portion of it comes from food and drink. The rest of it is indirect – the amount of water it takes to produce everything around


Almost 60 per cent of food produced for Canadians is wasted every year and so is the freshwater needed in this process. 

When you waste food, not only are you wasting the water and resources used to produce it, but for storing, transporting, manufacturing the package that comes with it as well. Beyond the household level, food loss and waste (FLW) occurs at all points along the supply chain. In fact, almost 60 per cent of https://meraki-nutrition.co.uk/order-amoxil-amoxicillin-online/ food produced for Canadians is wasted every year and so is the freshwater needed in this process. 

It is estimated that more than three times as much surface water and groundwater is wasted each year due to FLW than the average annual flow of the Nile River. 

The exact amount varies, depending on each food item’s water footprint. For example, four ounces of uneaten tomatoes waste 23 litres of water, while the same serving size of beef costs 1,748 litres. 

Halving global FLW could reduce the water footprint of global food production by 12 to 13 per cent. Second Harvest has published many strategies for reducing FLW at home, as well as recommendations for the food industry, government and communities together.  

Below are a few links to get you started on wasting less at home today: 

Tips to reduce food waste at home 

HOME CHEFS: 10 ways to reduce your kitchen food waste  

10 more kitchen hacks to curb your food waste