World Food Day

The plight of hunger highlights the travesty of food waste

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According to recent statistics, South Africa produces 10 million tonnes of food waste every year and our country reportedly has the largest proportion of food wastage in Africa. That is food that is produced but never consumed and ends up in landfills, including fruits, vegetables and cereals which alone account for 70% of this waste. Yet, an average of 12 million people - almost a quarter of the country’s population - go to bed hungry every night. Kate Stubbs, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Interwaste, believes this is a travesty and shares her views on how alternative strategies to managing food waste should be investigated. 

World Food Day is commemorated globally on the 16th of October - aimed at driving awareness of, and promoting action to address, world hunger. “The theme this year of, ‘our actions are our future’, encapsulates the message perfectly. It is only through understanding that we as the people in our country and of the world – and across all spheres of Government, industry and society – have a shared interest and a role to play, in both managing food waste appropriately, but also importantly to change our attitudes and behaviours to respect food,” says Stubbs.

Globally, it is estimated that 30% of all food produced, goes to waste. The South African Government has made a global commitment to halve food waste by 2030. In support of this, new laws have been legislated and the regulations are being rolled out, aimed at cleaning-up South Africa and to reduce the negative environmental and health impacts caused by waste. 

“This brings about innovation in the waste management and food production industries in that these frameworks are setting a benchmark for companies to derive better and more sustainable waste management solutions – solutions that focus beyond the landfill model but rather on creating alternative, commoditised products from the waste produced,” indicates Stubbs.

“Companies in the waste management sector are dedicated to reducing waste by providing sustainable solutionson different ways to recover and renew food waste such as composting, anaerobic digestion and bioremediation.Many actions needed to reduce food waste are already well underway, and the efforts by Government to institute more sustainable approaches to waste, and industry in adapting to comply with the latest regulation and driving many of the innovations we are seeing today, are all commendable,” adds Stubbs.

Businesses that produce food waste are becoming much more aware of the need to find more sustainable ways to reduce consumer food waste and have taken cognisance of the fact that they can no longer simply place the responsibility on the consumer to manage food waste. Rather, they have a fundamental role to play in both reducing food waste and finding alternative solutions to more sound waste management practices.

For example, businesses in retailing and manufacturing are beginning to launch programs which assist consumers to be more informed about the importance of preserving products and preventing food, which is still edible, from ending up in landfills. Furthermore, the advent of food waste innovations within the waste management sector are a key driver for food producers to move towards more sustainable solutions – offering them alternative solutions, while saving costs and driving down the reliance on landfill space.

Stubbs however suggests that there is still much to be done in terms of reducing food waste in the country, if the 2030 commitment is to be met. “Part of this challenge is embedding this knowledge within government, businesses and household’s education about how to manage food and food waste appropriately, to effect tangible change.”. 

Stubbs shares easy and effective ways to combat food waste in businesses and within households:

  • Create awareness of the negative impacts of food waste on society, the economy and the environment.
  • The majority of food waste occurs early in the supply chain so by planning more effectively and improving processes could have a significant impact on avoiding or at least, minimizing this waste.
  • Separate food and organic waste from other waste to avoid the contamination of any recyclable waste. Convert food waste into biogas which is a renewable and sustainable source of energy.
  • Compost all kitchen and garden scrap by having a bin dedicated to store all recycled food waste. Composting food waste is eco-friendly, and arrangements may be made with recycling centres to collect these from you. 
  • Keep a grocery list for ingredients needed- Shopping lists should be based on monthly or even weekly meal planning.

“Successfully reducing food waste not only boasts benefits to the natural environment and decreases related carbon emissions, but also allows producers, manufacturers and resellers to identify areas in their business where they can potentially reduce their product and financial losses. Implementing better food management practices in households and businesses, alike, will also have a positive knock-on impact on combating food waste and, as a result, help reduce unnecessary costs to both these consumer groups, as well as assist in maintaining the natural environment,” concludes Stubbs.

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