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Fighting food waste in households

The waste management industry is trying to devise new ways of disposing of food waste. South Africa produces around 10 million tonnes of food waste per year – one of the largest by volume in Africa. Most of this waste comes from presale processes before the food even hits the shelves, but a significant proportion comes from the home.

Government, industry players and society have a role to play in managing and reducing the volume of food that is discarded. The government can introduce new policies around the issue, waste management companies can divert this waste from landfills and society can adopt a new attitude towards discarding food. These are simplified suggestions but they are necessary steps to take.

Government policies around food waste

It is believed that one-third of all food produced goes to waste around the globe. The South African government has made a pledge to halve food waste by 2030. They are adjusting laws and introducing new legislation to help guide waste management companies in the disposal of unwanted food. 

These changes to the law will also inspire innovation in the waste management and food production sectors. Better benchmarks will be set and the standards of waste handling will become higher, leading to more sustainable methods of dealing with the volume of discarded food.

Waste management companies improve

South African waste management companies are also improving in terms of how they handle food waste. Sustainable solutions are being devised that offer better ways to dispose of food than simply sending it to landfill.

Composting is the preferred method of disposal for organic food. The nutrients in fruit pips and vegetable trimmings are retained in the compost, which is then added to the soil as a natural fertiliser. Anaerobic digestion and bioremediation are other examples of sustainable and innovative methods of processing food waste.

Society can adjust attitude towards food waste

Consumers’ attitudes towards food need to change. People are too quick to throw out leftover food or perfectly edible scraps at home. Ugly fruits and vegetables are left to ripen on supermarket shelves. Expired organic food is simply thrown in the bin, instead of a compost bucket. Small attitude adjustments can help to reduce wasted food in the household.

If the government’s goal of halving food waste by the end of the next decade is to be met, then society has a significant role to play. Shifts in attitude take time – decades even – but through education and awareness-raising efforts, society can begin to reduce the volume of food that gets discarded.

It’s important for people to separate their organic waste from non-organic waste and recyclables. This avoids contamination of recycling batches and organic compost. Place a separate compost bucket and recycling bin in the kitchen to separate the three types of waste more easily.

Tackling food waste in the household is the best place to start. It will help to reduce the cost of handling the waste and will ensure a cleaner environment for all. The knock-on effects of good waste disposal practices in the household will benefit society and help South Africa to achieve the government’s 2030 vision.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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