6 June 2024

With the Phuket tourism industry well on the way to recovery and aiming to welcome 12 million tourist arrivals this year, the problem of food waste is seen as an increasingly critical issue. In an effort to reduce that waste, the Thai Organic Consumer Association (TOCA) is working with hotels in Phuket to initiate a food waste composting system, which is in line with the BCG (Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model).

About one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world goes to waste, according to a study commissioned by the United Nations food agency. That is shocking enough in itself, but what most people don’t realise are the enormous impacts all that waste has on climate change, food insecurity, and human health. If food waste goes to landfills and rots, it produces a huge amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and can also spread viruses and diseases.

Arrut Navaraj, founder and president of TOCA, revealed that now it has developed a blockchain-based ecosystem connecting consumers including travellers, restaurants and hotels to a network of certified organic farmers throughout the country that meet bests practices in food and sustainability, TOCA is aiming to expand its e-commerce platform to cover food waste which will be composted to become organic fertilizer for farmers.

TOCA is currently working with the Phuket Hotels Association (PHA) to implement a pilot project encouraging hotels to transform organic waste into high-quality compost. TOCA will encourage the hotels to set up a food waste shredder developed by its partner Bang Krachao Farm. The waste can easily be decomposed to generate compost with low energy consumption. The hotels can either use the compost for their gardens or sell it to farmers in the TOCA network.

Hotel buffets are a major attraction for guests but they are also one of the top generators of food waste. Despite some leading hotels in Phuket having adopted a global food waste solution to reduce food loss and food waste and joined Scholars of Sustenance Foundation (SOS) in delivering leftovers to those in need, food waste disposal remains an important challenge for the hotels and municipalities.

In addition to Phuket, TOCA is planning to partner with hotels on Samui Island and in Chiang Mai province to serve as models of the food waste ecosystem platform. This would be an inspiring example for promoting the good practices and actions of the hotels nationwide. Not only will they produce and use organic compost in a self-sufficient and cost-effective manner, but the hotels can also play an important role in revitalizing organic farming, involving social enterprises and reducing environmental and transport costs.

According to the Pollution Control Department of Thailand, food waste accounts for 64% of total waste in the country and nearly 40% of that food waste is still edible and of good quality – the so-called food surplus. There are various actions taken at the consumer level from delivering leftovers to those in need to freezing food, shopping smarter, and composting.

Meanwhile, businesses, startups, and nonprofits see the issue of food waste as an opportunity. SOS is the first food rescue foundation in Thailand to minimize the needless loss of surplus food and improve food equity by redistributing high-quality surplus food from food-related businesses such as hotels, grocers, restaurants, and other suppliers to communities in need in Bangkok, Phuket, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and other places in the country every day. SOS aims to distribute 25 million meals by 2025 by increasing its operation and capacity by establishing a foodbank and distribution nodes around Thailand.

In addition, there are delivery platforms for surplus food that avoids its being thrown away in different landfills. Among them are Food Matter, which allows users to purchase surplus food from food stores, the yindee app, which offers premium food from hotels, cafes, bakeries and restaurants, and the sustainable food outlet ‘ohothailand’.

With the world population growing, the United Nations sees an urgent need to address the large quantities of food lost and wasted around the globe, stressing the risks implied for climate change, agriculture sustainability, human livelihoods, and food supplies. By 2030, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aims 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 Veena Thoopkrajae with additonal report by Patcharee Leunguthai

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