It’s a chilly December evening in Tokyo and chef Noriyuki Suzuki, of restaurant Sakanoura Rojitei Yasaito, is presenting curious onlookers with an array of unexpected ingredients, whipping up a nine-course tasting menu out of leftovers such potato peelings and forlorn-looking pineapple skins.

The event was organized by ByFood, a platform that promotes Japanese food experiences, and marks the first in a forthcoming series aiming to spark a discussion about food waste in Japan. Despite the renowned concept of mottainai, which represents a “waste not, want not” attitude, according to the agriculture ministry, over 6.5 million tons of food in Japan go to waste every year. As part of a drive to work toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Diet passed the Act on Promotion of Food Loss and Waste Reduction, which came into effect in 2019. It requires municipal governments to take measures toward reducing waste, but stops short of laying out specifics.

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