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Utsunomiya city gov't brings campaign against food waste to the table

Participants at a banquet focus on eating food directly after the event kicks off in a restaurant in Utsunomiya on Jan. 13, 2018. (Mainichi)

UTSUNOMIYA -- The municipal government here is launching a campaign against food waste, with 126 restaurants and small shops already agreeing to participate. Through bringing awareness to the problem of throwing away edible food stuffs, the local government hopes it will reduce waste in homes as well.

    An Utsunomiya Municipal Government survey carried out in 2016 found that wasted food made up 34 percent of household garbage. For restaurants, it was around 40 percent, with the majority reportedly consisting of food left uneaten by customers.

    To combat the problem, the city laid out three main points for the campaign in 2016: setting aside the first and last 10 minutes of a banquet strictly for eating; using up 100 percent of ingredients and eating 100 percent of dishes; and making the 10th of each month "refrigerator contents maintenance day." Soliciting restaurants and shops to cooperate in the campaign, the local government is requesting that establishments hang posters and explanatory banners along with engaging in independent efforts to reduce food waste.

    The city government hopes to reach 300 participating establishments by the end of fiscal 2018. Many restaurants are engaging in explaining portion sizes and making adjustments, asking about the volume of food requested for banquets and other efforts. Even in chain restaurants, where making detailed adjustments is more difficult than at individual locations, point cards for children to receive stamps if they finish everything on their plates and other systems are being introduced.

    At one restaurant in Utsunomiya's Honcho district, along with hanging up original posters for the campaign, the staff is also asking customers about age range, food preferences, if they prefer quality or quantity, and other factors to customize a banquet plan when a reservation is made.

    "My wife's family are farmers, so simply knowing how much work is put into producing food makes me want to reduce waste," store manager Takashi Aoki, 50, said. "It would also probably be effective if the government increased cooperation with the unions of places like restaurants in addition to working on the level of individual establishments."

    Local certified tax accountant Tatsuji Asai, who was enjoying a banquet at the restaurant with his colleagues, commented, "At gatherings, participants always have to change seats (to talk to everyone), and I started to be bothered by all the food left over. This new campaign can serve as motivation, and customers can even designate someone to call 'food-finishing time' within their groups."

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