In a bid to address the urban food waste challenge in Sri Lanka, a National Roadmap on Urban Food Waste Prevention and Reduction for Households, Food services, Retailers, and Wholesalers was prepared by FAO for the Ministry of Environment. The roadmap maps out an evidence-based strategy and vision to effectively tackle the country’s urban food waste.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) provided funding and technical assistance to formulate the National Roadmap through an FAO Technical Cooperation Project that was launched in June 2019 and implemented in partnership with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
The Roadmap to Urban Food Waste Prevention and Reduction in Households, Food Services, Retailers and Wholesalers was launched in Colombo under the patronage of the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Dr Anil Jasinghe and Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The National Roadmap is based on new evidence generated by the project and past research. One of the project reports reveal that Sri Lanka generates 7,000 tonnes of solid waste per day, out of which 65 – 66 per cent (by weight) consists of perishable organic material.
Accordingly, the average value of total food waste generated per day in the country is approximately 3,963 tonnes. The FAO and IWMI analyzed data gathered from three major waste disposal centers in the Colombo region (namely Kerawalapitiya, Karadiyana and Kaduwela).
The total daily solid waste generated in the Colombo Municipal Council area is 706 tons of which 50 per cent, approximately 353 tons, is food waste.
Commenting on the National Roadmap, FAO Representative Vimlendra Sharan said, “Urban areas in Sri Lanka need substantial state and non-state interventions for not only managing food waste quantities, but also working towards a national shift towards food waste prevention and reduction. A ‘food use-not-waste’ approach would significantly reduce the impacts of food waste on climate change; support raising incomes for food supply chain actors (from wholesale to households), and ensure food and nutrition security for all. Knowing more about food waste will enable people to adopt more resourceful and conscious approaches to food consumption and production”.
“Hence, FAO developed a series of tailored multi-language awareness raising material targeting the food supply chain actors. The awareness raising package also includes the translation of the FAO food waste reduction materials designed for children from 5 to 14+ years,” he also said.
“Food Waste is a global challenge, and here in Sri Lanka, we need to work together to navigate this challenge effectively. A number of factors such as storage and transport capacities, rapid urbanization, expansion of retail chains, overstocking and unsustainable consumer behaviour contribute to food waste,” stated Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment.
“The problem is complex and we need a comprehensive and multi-faceted matrix of solutions to overcome the status quo. I am confident that the Roadmap which is in line with the National Policies on Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption and Production will help us to initiate action and move ahead to get all stakeholders involved in preventing and reducing food waste in Sri Lanka,” he also noted.
The National Roadmap introduces a set of well-defined multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaborative actions that can lead to a range of positive impacts. As such, its implementation will contribute to minimizing recurring climate change impacts such as Green House Gas emissions and loss of valuable environmental resources like land, water and soil that go into food production and processing. Actions include recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food for human consumption.
“The National Roadmap invites private sector and civil society to join forces towards creating new sustainable business opportunities with high Returns on Investment, including social and technological innovations such as Artificial Intelligence technology to track food waste and calculate its economic impact,” advised Anthony Bennett, Senior Food Systems Officer from FAO Asia-Pacific Regional Office, Bangkok.
It also calls for improving quantification (i.e. data availability and quality) to better comprehend social, environmental, and economic impacts of food waste. The research community of Sri Lanka is invited to coordinate and contribute to this dimension of the Plan in collaboration with state and non-state actors, including through joint projects at international level.
The National Roadmap details a coordinated approach facilitated through joint actions and partnerships between governmental agencies, municipalities, the private sector actors, and civil society organizations.
The successful implementation of Sri Lanka’s Roadmap to Urban Food Waste Prevention and Reduction in Households, Food Services, Retailers and Wholesalers, urban Sri Lanka contributes also to the global Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 on halving food waste by 2030.