China has enacted new legislation to combat food waste, banning online binge-eating videos and fines for diners who leave behind excessive uneaten food at restaurants. According to Chinese state media, the new policy is aimed at fostering a “resource-conserving” society. It comes as countries around the world are collectively ramping up efforts to tackle the food waste crisis as part of their sustainability goals.
Officially approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on April 29, the new slate of anti-food waste resolutions are expected to “build a long-term mechanism” against the issue and “guide society” towards resource conservation, according to state media outlet Global Times.
The new laws include a ban on binge-eating videos, a trend made popular by Chinese social media celebrities and vloggers in recent years. These videos, posted on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, often depict people eating competitively and purging afterwards, as well as leaving behind huge amounts of unconsumed food.
Those who make and distribute these videos will now be facing fines of up to 100,000 RMB (US$15,500).
China has also introduced a law to allow restaurants to charge diners an additional fee if they leave behind excessive leftovers. Foodservice businesses will also face charges ranging from 10,000 RMB to 50,000 RMB (US$1,550 to US$7,800) if they mislead consumers into ordering more food than necessary, or if they produce large amounts of food waste.
Speaking about the legislation in conversation with Global Times, Professor Zheng Fengtian of Renmin University told the state-owned paper that it aims to provide guidance to enterprises, consumers and governments across the food industry through a series of penalties and rewards.
According to the official state-run press agency Xinhua News, around 18 billion kilograms of food is being thrown out every single year in China’s foodservice and catering sector alone.
Asia as a whole contributes around half of the total wasted food worldwide, and global food waste accounts for around 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions. In the most recent U.N. food waste index, experts estimate that around 931 million tonnes of food being sold in consumer channels goes to waste every single year.
Chinese media insist that the new laws have not been implemented in response to immediate food shortages, but rather a “far-sighted move for food security” and a part of the country’s climate ambitions. Last year, Chinese president Xi Jing-ping pledged to bring China’s emissions to net-zero by 2060.
Other countries around the world have also been making moves to fight food waste, such as the Singapore government’s latest push to require commercial and industrial firms to measure and report how much food waste they produce and segregate for treatment.
In the wake of the pandemic, the city-state has also set aside extra investment dedicated to sustainable food production to bolster food resilience, a move many credit for Singapore’s current leadership in food and agri-tech innovation.
South Korea, on the other hand, has managed to increase its recycling rates from just 2% in 1995 to 95% in 2019 through policies such as “smart bins” and pay-as-you-weigh waste schemes and introducing mandatory recycling rules.
Lead image courtesy of TechNode / Jiayi Shi.