China’s President Xi Jinping has called for an end of food waste as the country launched a “Clean Your Plate Campaign”.
President Xi urged citizens to remain vigilant on food security despite the fact there is no shortage of harvests. There has been concern of a looming food crisis made worst by the pandemic and floods in southern China. But Chinese agriculturalists said those factors would not impact this year's domestic food security.
President Xi encouraged the implementation of a long-term solution to stop wasting food at restaurants.
“Food waste is at a shocking and distressing level as tens of thousands tons of food are left on dining tables every day to be thrown out,” Xi said. “It’s necessary to raise public awareness on the issue further and to foster an environment of reducing food consumption.”
Ordering more dishes more the table can consume and to fill a table has been a norm in China, especially at banquets. Behind that mindset is a tradition of flaunting wealth and superstition that a banquet host should order a variety of dishes for auspicious reasons.
A chef in China’s eastern city of Hangzhou told Qianjiang Evening News that his restaurant collects six to seven big buckets of food waste every day. “My heart aches when I see that amount of food waste,” Chef Chan said.
A wedding banquet attendee described similar scenes. Wang Xiao told Qianjiang Evening News that despite three empty tables out of 40, dishes were still delivered to the empty seats. Wang saw a significant amount of food, mostly vegetables, remain on every table, and go straight to the rubbish bin.
The state broadcaster has also criticised live-stream shows involving hosts stuffing themselves with excess food as wasting food. The live streaming platforms have subsequently shut down those live streams.
Restaurants in China’s southern Jiangxi province are tackling the issue by training their staff to remind customers when they have ordered enough. The slogan of “N-1” are displayed in restaurants, which means the number in the dining party minus one will be the recommended amount of dishes to order. For example, a party of nine should order eight dishes. Restaurants also encouraged customers to order half portions.
Policy researchers have also suggested making restaurants accountable for food waste as part of a solution. Fan Bonai, vice president of Zhejiang University’s Public Policy Research Institute, said there should be legal consequences for restaurants producing food waste so as to ensure restaurants will find ways to work with their customers to minimise them.