Structural Point Of View

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The recycling of food wastes should be considered as part of the long-term sustainability of agriculture. As Japan is a typical island state, the undesirable influence of oversea-dependent food production has become obvious. Although free trade systems are commonly accepted in the world today, reconsideration of them may be necessary concerning food and feed from environmental aspects. Figure 1 shows the food and feed cycle in Japan in 1998 on the basis of nitrogen (N), in 103 tons/year.

From this figure, it is obvious that the nitrogen cycles originally closed, are very open, because of the consumption of chemical fertilizer and large amount of imported food and feed.

Figure 1 Nitrogen cycle relating to food in Japan.

The rate of Japan's self supply of domestic food was 41% in 1970, 32% in 1990, and 29% in 1998 for N, and 33% (1970), 29% (1990), and 28% (1998) for Phosphorus, excluding grass feed [1]. These facts make the recycling of food wastes difficult in various phases. We have not enough farmlands for food wastes to be recycled. The supply of composts to paddy field for rice plantation decreased from 5.07 ton/ha/year in 1965 to 1.25 ton/ha/year in 1997 [2]. Figure 2 shows a comparison of food balance between Japan and the United States.

Figure 2 Nitrogen balance of food and feed in Japan and the United States (1992-1994).

Based on international statistics on agriculture, forestry, and fisheries [3], the United States exports food and feed of 4.2 g N/capita/day. However Japan imports food and feed at a rate as high as 19.4 g N/capita/day. The supply of food is 15.2 g/capita/day in Japan, and 18.0 g/ capita/day in the United States. The ratio of the amount of food to be recycled to farmland vs. chemical fertilizer consumption is 15.5:12=1.3 in Japan, 41.5:116=0.36 in the United States. The consumption of chemical fertilizer on farmland is 121 kg N/ha and 59 kg N/ha for Japan and for the United States, respectively. Considering these situations, it easy to understand the difficulty of food waste recycling in Japan, which uses more than twice as much foreign farmland overseas as domestic farmland.

These realities also profoundly affect issues of eutrophication in water, not only shortage of the demand for recycled food wastes. The principle that organic wastes should return to the land needs to be enforced.

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