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13 Jul 2015

A family breaks their fast outside a shopping mall during Ramadan in Kuala Lumpur on July 2, 2015. Restaurants are taking steps to reduce food wastage following a recent reminder that 270,000 tonnes of edible leftovers are thrown away every year during the fasting month. – AFP pic, July 11, 2015. 

A few restaurants have taken steps to reduce food waste during Ramadan, following a sombre reminder recently issued that some 270,000 tonnes of edible leftovers are thrown away every year during the fasting month.

At least three eateries in the Klang Valley have taken measures such as making customers pay for unfinished meals, or by issuing reminders to patrons over the public address system to finish their food.

These simple measures have so far been effective in raising awareness and ensuring customers do not waste food, they said.

The Alamo Restaurant in Kampung Baru near the heart of Kuala Lumpur city has a policy of charging customers for leftovers. “This is the effective way to reduce food wastage. As far as we are concerned, there has been no wastage at our restaurant,”

Alamo’s sales and marketing manger Nadia Razman said in a recent interview. “We even put a note about food wastage at our food stations, and before we show them their table, we will remind them that they will be charged for any leftovers,” she said.

The restaurant allows customers to take as much as they want at its buffet, but the policy is effective in making them exercise more caution in the amount they take, Nadia said.

Some patrons even reminded their dining partners not to take more food than they could consume, she added. “Some customers are willing to sit back and finish their food when we tell them that leftovers will be charged, because they don’t want to be charged.” 

Another of the Alamo’s practices is to cook dishes according to the number of reservations received, Nadia said.

National news agency Bernama last month reported that about 270,000 tonnes of leftovers that could still be consumed were thrown away annually during Ramadan.

This was according to Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp) chief executive officer Datuk Ab Rahim Md Noor, who also said the food could have fed 180 million people, or six times the country’s population of 27 million. If the food were arranged in piles, the height of it would stand as tall as 30 Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) buildings, he had also said.

D’best Cafe and Catering in Shah Alam meanwhile uses announcements to remind customers not to take food excessively. Hisham Hashim who runs the outlet said the announcement also informed patrons that wasting food was a “bad attitude”. “Some of them will understand it,” he said of his patrons.

Communication with the kitchen is also important to reduce wastage, Hisham said. “At about 7.30 or 7.45pm, after the customers have taken most of the food, we will go around and see which dishes need to be topped up. I always communicate with the cooks in the kitchen to reduce wastage and essentially reduce cost.”

Hisham also has a “plan B” in the event of leftovers: he donates the sweets and kuih to the nearest surau.

Subak restaurant manager Fariz Mohd Salleh said they had minimal wastage as food was prepared based on the number of reservations a night. Leftovers were packed for employees to take home. “Wastage in restaurant is minimal, not as much as in the hotels. “Most of our customers know their limits on how much food they can consume, and we don’t place any reminder because we don’t want control our customers,” he said.

Subak also does not impose extra charges on unfinished food, he added.

Hotels still appear to be the biggest culprits, and Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) president Datuk Nadzim Johan was also reported saying that they were particularly guilty of excessive food preparation. “The buffet spread prepared particularly by hotels are enormous. In this regard, hotel owners should set up a mechanism to penalise customers who waste food. If the hotels have a mechanism in place, I’m sure customers will think twice or thrice about wasting food,” Bernama reported him saying.

But Ramadan or not, Malaysians would do well to remember that some 8,000 tonnes of food goes to waste per day, enough to feed six million people.

SWCorp’s Ab Rahim, who gave this figure, also says that food leftovers comprise 45% of solid waste generated and is costly to manage, to the tune of billions of ringgit each year. – July 11, 2015.