Food Waste Generation
Consumer Behaviour at different Restaurants of Lahore city
Daniyal Naeem & Ayesha Iqbal
Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food waste is produced globally per year which is equal to one-third of the total food production.. This amount of food waste causes a great loss in terms economic value, approximately US$ 1 trillion a year. The global food supply chain is growing exponentially with greater amounts of food being processed and consumed in different parts of the world. As food waste becomes the major concern, it has been included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as Goal 12 aims to ‘Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Pattern’ and its target 12.3 is to ‘halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, by 2030. Among these, SDG 2, which is related to ‘Zero Hunger’, and its target (2.1) aim to ‘end hunger and provide means to access nutritious food to all people especially the poor and more vulnerable people.’
The restaurants or related foodservice sectors are the second major contributor to the generation of food waste after household, and the generation rate is rising as more and more restaurants or cafes are being opened. In United Kingdom (UK), the most of the food gets wasted in restaurants (45%) during preparation phase, whereas the consumer waste constitutes 34% and food deterioration constitutes 21% of the total waste.
As per some careful estimates, around 36 million tons of food is wasted in Pakistan every year which is stunningly equivalent to everyday lunches and dinners of entire populations of Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad. It has also been estimated that 40% of food in Pakistan is wasted. This is an alarming situation for a country where 60% of the population is food insecure. In 2017, Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked Pakistan 106th out of 119 countries with a score of 32.6 and its status is considered to be ‘serious’. Although the country has improved its ranking by jumping to 94th position out of 117 countries in GHI 2019, ‘with a score of 32.6, Pakistan still suffers from a level of hunger that is serious’.
In a recent report on the state of global child nutrition, Unicef has declared that at least one half of the world’s children under the age of five are malnourished. The report is a wake-up call for Pakistan which is among the seven countries that make up two-thirds of the global undernourished population. These rankings are perplexing because Pakistan is the country where nearly 36 million tons of food is wasted every year.
There are many reasons why the consumers leave the food uneaten and don’t ask for takeaway. It may be because they order an excessive quantity of food, the amount of food is not enough for takeaway, and they do not want to carry doggy-bags, dissatisfaction due to unmet taste expectations, and so on.
Changing consumer behaviour and attitude regarding food waste helps to reduce the amount of food waste generated both at household and commercial sectors. Most of the studies to date have been conducted on food waste at household level; nonetheless, of late food service sector has also gained some attention. This issue must be studied further so as to change the behaviours of both food service sector (such as eateries, restaurants or café) and consumers in order top resolve the food crisis.
In developing countries, food insecurity and food wastage (both household and food service sectors) are on the rise. In Karachi (the most populous city of Pakistan), per person food waste in Muslims marriage ceremonies is 475g per occasion, which means a food waste of 307,800 tons per year.
Lahore city (focus of this study) is considered the food hub of Pakistan, and the people of Lahore, especially the city’s youth, are known for their love for food. There are many food streets in Lahore and the business of this sector is increasing day by day. Both local and international food chains have their outlets in different parts of the city to attract the gourmet youth of Lahore to tickle their taste buds. Given the taste and love of people of Lahore for food, its waste generation rate is too high to manage. There is no proper and standardized landfill site in Lahore and all the waste is dumped openly which has hazardous environmental impacts as well.
In this study, the authors assessed food waste generation rate in restaurants of Lahore city and have analyzed the consumer behaviour and attitude towards food waste production. For this purpose, questionnaire-based surveys were conducted, targeting the restaurants and consumers of Lahore city. The researchers collected data from 56 restaurants on 61-item questionnaires, and from 53 consumers using a 60-item questionnaire. Statistical analyses of the data were carried using Pearson correlation analysis and chi-square test. It was found that on average 537 ± 88.82 customers visited any restaurant in a day, producing on average 19.41 ± 1.75 kg of food waste per day per restaurant, and for 5000 it will be 97,050 kg waste/day and will produce 35.42 kilotons annually. Most of this food waste came from the consumption phase (14.04%), followed by food preparation phase (7.41%) and least from food spoilage (3.09%). A significant positive relationship (p = 0.93) was found between average weight of food waste produced and number of customers visiting restaurant in a day. Chi-square test showed significant relationship between gender of the consumer and generation of food waste from fast foods such as pizzas (p = 0.02) and burgers (p = 0.01). A great majority of the consumers (72%) were well aware of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of food waste and pledged (89%) to reduce their food wastage in future.
The issue of food insecurity is highest in Pakistan and the wastage of food is also a serious concern. This study was an effort to not only focus on the magnitude of the issue of food waste in Lahore, but it also addressed the reasons resulting in the food waste generation. The study provides appropriate solutions to tackle this ongoing serious issue. Lack of awareness, knowledge and weak policy was exhibited by the fact that majority of the restaurants had poor waste management practices, and were not quantifying there daily food waste generation. This study also indicates that to make the foodservice sector aware about this issue is quite a challenging task. The attitude and behaviour of the respondents and a current response do not endorse the increased requirement of food waste reduction activities in foodservice sectors.
The data suggests that the attitude and behaviour of the consumers plays a significant role for reducing the food waste in food service sector. Majority of the surveyed consumers were aware of the global and regional food waste issue and had information about the food waste and its impact. However, the findings show a direct relationship between the gender and the left-over food such as pizza/burger, and it was found that females left more food than males. Attitude and behavioral changes among consumers and retailers, government policies, and sustainable development goals can help to resolve this fast-growing issue. This could be done through awareness, relevant knowledge and incentives provided by the retailer and government.
There are a large number of restaurants in Lahore city as well as other densely populated cities throughout Pakistan. If we multiply the figure of food waste of just 56 surveyed restaurants to the total restaurants in Pakistan, the result would blow up the minds. “Can we promise to ourselves to not waste food anywhere?”