Pioneer of Food Waste Reduction: Taichung, Taiwan

One-third of all food produced worldwide is wasted. Determined to do better, Taichung City in Taiwan enacted an ordinance on food banks in 2016. Under this framework, municipal food banks collect food nearing expiration and donate it to those in need; refrigerators in public markets allow unused food to make it into the hands of social welfare organizations; and a facility producing bio-powered electricity for 800 households has also been built. At the same time, the private sector is expanding its activities to eliminate waste. We look at the Taichung City-led effort to reduce food waste.

A city-operated food bank
Fresh market food collected for distribution
Donated ingredients feed the elderly
Household food waste used to generate electricity

Transcript

00:17

Eggs, added to tomatoes... in a pan.

00:23

A tasty meal made from ingredients that used to be thrown away.

00:33

The salvaged food comes from a public market in Taiwan...

00:40

...where a campaign to minimize food waste is picking up steam.

00:45

Delicious, really delicious.

00:52

In 2016, Taichung City enacted Taiwan's first food banking law.

01:01

The city's food bank has won praise for its efforts to combat food loss and help those in need.

01:11

Now, private food banks are joining in.

01:20

In support of food banks,

01:26

Taichung City is a pioneer among
local governments.

01:32

We look at a groundbreaking project in Taichung, a city determined to eliminate food waste.

01:49

Taichung City is located in central Taiwan.

01:56

Being a major transportation hub connecting the north and south, it has the second largest population in Taiwan.

02:08

And in this city is a food bank - one that operates under a specially enacted law.

02:18

Food donations are collected from businesses and organizations and then distributed monthly to people in need.

02:31

Here, they mainly handle staples such as rice and preserved foods packaged in retort pouches and cans.

02:42

Powdered milk and diapers are provided to families looking after babies and the elderly.

02:53

As of 2023, there are three such city-run food banks in Taichung, currently supporting some 1,000 families.

03:04

Hello.

03:09

They also receive donations from individuals.

03:15

People who got the bread
said it was delicious.

03:18

Thank you very much.

03:22

This man runs a bakery in the neighborhood.

03:25

For several years now, he has been coming to donate his unsold bread.

03:34

It would be a great waste
if they were just thrown out.

03:41

It's still fine to eat.

03:44

I bring bread here out of gratitude
and to contribute to society.

03:52

Yang Chu-Chun is in charge of processing applications from those in need.

04:01

Whenever applications are sent in, Yang calls each person to ask them about their situation.

04:09

Hello, is this Ms. Lin?
I'm from the food bank.

04:14

Regarding the application
that you sent...

04:21

In order to provide help, she checks their income, family structure, pre-existing conditions and welfare status.

04:31

You live alone now.

04:35

It says here that
you have a disability certificate.

04:39

How's your health?

04:46

Since the pandemic, they have been getting about 200 applications every month.

04:57

She's divorced and lives alone,
temporarily working a part-time job.

05:04

Her income is unstable.
But she must pay her bills and rent.

05:16

She was struggling to make ends
meet and decided to apply.

05:23

Recently, there are many who have
been affected by the pandemic.

05:33

On this day, a man has come seeking help.

05:36

He lives alone.

05:40

He says he is desperate.

05:50

You want to receive assistance.
May I ask the reason why?

06:01

He says he has no job and worries about his health.

06:08

I'm getting old...

06:12

And I have a kidney problem.

06:24

- As for canned food...
- Anything will do.

06:31

Yang gets to work.

06:32

Her assessment is that the man is in immediate need of food.

06:40

This is bread donated by the public.

06:45

Please take them too.

06:52

I'm saved.

06:57

I can't work.
I want to, but I'm too old.

07:06

I can't get hired.

07:14

If ongoing support is needed, staff will help him apply for formal assistance.

07:28

Chatting with them,
I try to let them know

07:32

they can get support here.

07:35

Caring about their health
helps them relax.

07:39

And they tell me more.

07:41

This is how I interact with them.

07:48

The city's food bank opened in 2012.

07:51

The aim was to assist the growing numbers of unemployed in the wake of the global financial crisis.

08:01

In 2016, the city enacted the "Taichung City Food Bank Ordinance" to stimulate food bank initiatives.

08:16

The decree said departments should work hand in hand to help reduce food waste and support the underprivileged.

08:24

The Health Bureau checks food hygiene every three months.

08:33

The Education Bureau offers classes in public schools on reducing food waste.

08:41

Without an ordinance, a change
of leadership,

08:47

or lack of personnel to take over
could end this initiative.

09:00

By clearly stating it in the ordinance,
the obligation helps it continue.

09:15

The ordinance promoted another key trend...

09:18

using perishable food that would otherwise have been thrown out.

09:25

Jianguo Market is the largest public market in Taiwan.

09:30

It houses more than 700 stores, mainly selling perishable food products.

09:40

Near the back of the market, sit refrigerators installed by the city.

09:47

For the past five years, they have been used to store food that was previously tossed out.

09:53

Now, it goes to welfare organizations.

10:00

Lin Yu-Shen is a vice president in the market's community association.

10:07

He takes us on a tour of what kind of foods are removed from the shelves.

10:16

This store sells sausages.

10:18

They're made of pig intestines stuffed with glutinous rice.

10:25

We can't sell these sausages
because they are misshapen.

10:35

The intestines sometimes break, causing the rice to spill out.

10:43

I donate leftovers
that I can't eat myself.

10:46

It's a very good idea
to give it to people who need it.

10:55

It's 11:00 am.

10:58

The market stores, which have been open since 5:00 am. begin to close.

11:14

I've brought some stewed pig's feet.

11:18

It was unsold, so I'm donating it
to the people in need.

11:31

The vendor selling the rice sausages also drops by.

11:41

They were returned to the store.
Some bits were torn.

11:50

They didn't look good enough,
so I came to donate them.

11:58

Before long, a steady stream of unsold and rejected items is flowing to the back of the market.

12:10

Similar fridges are located at seven public markets in the city, handling some 40 tons of food donations each year.

12:19

By the time the market closes, the refrigerators are packed.

12:25

At first, we were worried if we could
continue to secure the goods.

12:34

I felt bad if donations fell behind.

12:41

But in the five years, there's not been
a single day without donations.

12:54

In the afternoon, the food is collected by a welfare organization that provides meals to the elderly.

13:05

On this day, they collect around 100kg of food, mostly vegetables.

13:27

The food is brought to the cooking space of their headquarters - a Taoist temple.

13:36

Here, the items are first checked to make sure they are all edible.

13:46

Today's food will be used tomorrow.

13:52

We'll cook it and serve it
to the elderly for lunch.

14:00

The next morning.

14:06

Now move your feet too.

14:09

Repeat, repeat.

14:13

Exercise before meals is the routine here.

14:20

Many of the elderly live alone and tend to stay at home.

14:26

By having a place to exercise and eat, these seniors have a chance to re-connect with society.

14:35

By 2025, over 20% of the population in Taiwan will be aged 65 or older.

14:42

Support for the elderly is a growing challenge.

14:52

Local volunteers do the cooking.

14:57

They think of what to make based on the ingredients offered by the market.

15:12

On today's menu, fried tomato and egg.

15:19

There are five other dishes...

15:21

including stir-fried cabbage and dried tofu.

15:41

Thank you.

15:46

This soup kitchen is held five times a week, serving about 100 people at each sitting.

15:56

Diners pay 45 cents to cover expenses like power and gas.

16:02

For the elderly on low incomes, however, it's free of charge.

16:08

They all have vegetables.
So it's nutritious.

16:12

There's fruit, too.
I'm so happy.

16:16

Delicious, really delicious.

16:19

It helps so much.

16:25

I have a chance to eat and exercise.

16:43

The elderly who are physically unable to go to the soup kitchen have not been forgotten.

16:49

The group delivers food to their homes.

17:00

The volunteers also check on the recipients' condition and take time to talk with them.

17:10

The lunch? It's really helpful because
I won't need to make one.

17:22

Taichung City led the way.

17:24

Seven years later, private food banks are busy expanding as well.

17:31

This is 1919 Food Bank.

17:34

Operated by a Christian association, it is the largest food bank in Taiwan.

17:45

Each day, a truck arrives, full of food donated by a foreign supermarket chain.

17:54

The supermarket says it is giving to the food bank to make a contribution to society.

18:05

On this day, about 100kg of bread and vegetables arrived.

18:14

Some of the products are nearing their expiration dates.

18:18

Others have torn wrappings.

18:27

Chiang Wang-O is responsible of administration and delivery.

18:36

There are apples today
and they're pretty nice.

18:42

Chiang and his team divide up the donated food for distribution to member churches.

18:52

If we don't accept them,
it'll become expired food.

19:00

Discarded, thrown away.

19:04

To salvage this food,

19:08

we hurry to pick it up
and deliver it immediately.

19:20

For the past six years, the group has also been making preserved food out of donations.

19:31

On this day, the kitchen has received about 20 kilograms of beef from a restaurant.

19:38

This beef is scrap produced during cooking.

19:46

Meat like this - leftovers that used to end up in the trash - is delivered every month.

19:56

The beef is cooked in oil.

20:06

It is then mixed with onions and soy sauce...

20:11

before packing.

20:19

The packs will be frozen and sent to association branches across Taiwan.

20:32

Last year, the kitchen produced about three tons of frozen packs.

20:43

Cooking allows us to reset
expiration dates.

20:49

Beef only has a shelf life of
two months.

20:54

But if you cook before freezing,
it can be extended to a year.

21:08

Chiang is helping deliver the frozen packs and food from the supermarket to the churches they support.

21:17

- Right on time.
- Are you doing well?

21:24

This is one such delivery...

21:26

80 kilograms of food.

21:32

Pastor, the spout's come off
but it's properly sealed.

21:38

Be careful when using it.
It's cream.

21:45

This church provides free after-school tuition and meals to about 40 children.

21:53

Many of these children are raised by a single parent or parents who have difficulty preparing dinner because of work.

22:08

The meal is prepared as they study.

22:18

They make good use of the food from the supermarket and freeze-packed stir-fried beef.

22:31

It's 5:00 pm. and the children who've finished their studies are ready to eat.

22:39

1919 Food Bank delivers to 24 churches in the city supporting children.

22:52

It's delicious.

22:55

Do you like the food here?

22:58

Yup.

23:01

- Do you like the beef bowl?
- Yes.

23:04

- How is it?
- It tastes good.

23:12

Many parents work long hours
of manual labor.

23:18

And some parents spend their
hard-earned money selfishly.

23:29

The church provides meals
for children in need.

23:33

It's very important for kids
to have a satisfying meal.

23:39

We are very grateful for
the food donations from 1919.

23:50

It starts with food waste... and ends with smiling children...

23:54

Chiang says that's why he does it.

24:05

Taichung City is taking action on another major challenge... household food waste.

24:12

It is said to account for 60% of uneaten food.

24:21

Garbage trucks that make the rounds separate the collected food waste.

24:31

One is for cooked food.

24:35

The other is for raw food,
vegetables and fruits.

24:43

The red tub is for cooked leftover food, which will become feed for pigs.

24:53

The green tub is for food scraps such as vegetables.

25:00

Green tubs have a different destination.

25:06

This is a special processing facility built by the city five years ago.

25:21

The scraps are mashed and mixed with water, turning them into a liquid.

25:30

The liquid is fermented by adding microorganisms to produce methane gas.

25:37

The gas is then used to generate electricity.

25:44

More than 100 tons of food scraps collected per day are converted into electricity for about 800 households.

26:10

The current annual processing
capacity is about 30,000 tons.

26:15

With more collected waste,
we want to make it 54,000 tons.

26:20

We hope to roughly double
its processing capacity.

26:29

The city is pursuing another use for food waste under a new initiative started last year.

26:38

It is offering the power plant waste liquid as fertilizer to nearby rice farmers... free of charge.

26:48

This farmer says that using the liquid waste has saved him money he used to spend on chemical fertilizers.

26:59

At first, I was just going to try it out.

27:05

But I realized that it was more
effective than chemical fertilizers.

27:11

So I will continue to use it.

27:17

Turning old food into new food...

27:21

Taichung City is creating a sustainable cycle to ensure no one goes hungry.

27:30

And it plans to continue doing so until realizing its ultimate goal: zero incinerated food waste.

27:38

And food for all.