The average rubbish bin in Singapore holds something quite unexpected for some. Discover what happens when we realise exactly how much food we discard without a second thought. makan mantra is a student-led initiative to reduce food waste in Singapore.

There are observable wastage in the office areas especially. And why’s that so?

  1. The food isn’t what we expect
  2. We might not be conscious over the amount of the food we are receiving
  3. Even if we do, the price of the food doesn’t typically decrease
  4. We buy additional food to share with others

1. The food isn’t what we expect

This is simple. I didn’t know this is so spicy so I couldn’t take it. I will go order something else.

Or maybe the spaghetti bolognese  looks terrible and didn’t taste good enough. We all want the best and at some point of time I tell myself I rather waste food than to take in food I do not want to eat. Is it fair to the hungry people in Afghanistan? Not at all. Do we still do it? Yes! Because by eating the horrible food, we gave in and accepted the extra calories and misery we could have easily deflected by just ordering something else. Food is affordable and happiness is at stake.

2. We might not be conscious over the amount of the food we are receiving

This happens quite often to me at least. I overestimate the amount of food I need in McDonald’s nearly all the time. The person at the cashier helpfully asks if I would like an upsize. Of course baby! Double upsize it, will you? And oh, change that drink to Milo. And you know what, I know want a sundae also, chocolate fudge please. Oh, Twister Fries? Why not?! Thank you!

And that’s how I end up with food I can’t finish. My fault? Maybe. But it does happen often because I’m not the one processing the food, the price of the food I am paying for is not significantly higher if I make these add ons. Sometimes I’m just feeling really hungry and I estimate my possible intake incorrectly.

3. Even if we do, the price of the food doesn’t typically decrease

Okay you go to Food Republic to have a meal. You order this beef noodle you know you cannot finish this time. So you ask if you could have lesser noodles. Do you get a discount? Nope. Same price as always.

This discourages me from even asking in the first place. It’s really market forces here acting, or rather the lack of. If things get cheaper, I might make a conscious effort to ask for lesser. More just doesn’t hurt the individual. I know you’re hating me right now, but cool off bro.

4. We buy additional food to share with others

This fried oyster egg thing. We always have a plate of it as an extra because someone in the party would have the craving for it. (I never have this craving, by the way.) So this person will order it but he or she will never just have it alone right? So they share, which itself is a beautiful gesture.

Let’s define the scenario clearer. There are 4 people, and Person A wants some sinful fried oyster egg. So Person A’s gonna buy a small portion, costing 3$. It’s great, and perhaps everybody’s happy. What if there are 8 people? Person A’s not going to just get a small portion. Okay, make it a large then, 5$. Person A can afford it and is willing to share with friends. And to worsen things a little, Person A doesn’t tell anyone he or she’s ordering fried oyster egg to share since Person A isn’t expecting anyone else to pay, it’s a treat. Now let me introduce Person B. Person B is very much like Person A, only that he likes fried carrot cake this time and similarly he got a large portion of it, 5$, gonna share too.

So effectively we ended up with an abundance of food we cannot finish and the cleaning dude shaking his head in disgust.

So what can I do better?

This works for me but might not for you. I always look at what others are having and sometimes I see something that looks nice and I order it. For those cases at least it is easy to recognize that I might not be able to finish the food and I order less of it.

If the person whom you’re eating with is close to you, half your portions and share this way. Also announcing that you’re going to buy something to share might give you a good idea who might be disinterested with the addons you are ordering.

Lastly, the less popular opinion, maybe food prices can still be increased.

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