Current statistics reveal that a third of food produced in South Africa is tossed in the bin. In a country where 25% of the population goes to bed hungry, food waste is an unsustainable practice. While much of this takes place at the food-supply chain level, there are ways you can help.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Futures, 10 million tons of food end up in our bins. South Africa is right on trend with the rest of the world, throwing out an estimated 210kg of food per person per year.
Why the waste?
Much of this happens along the food-supply chain (on farms, during transportation and in retail stores) due to improper procedures. Ironically, it is the strict government regulations to ensure a certain level of freshness that results in food that is still edible being thrown out.
Food loss also negatively affects our natural resources and food prices. ‘Water and energy costs, together with the cost of disposing of the waste, means that food wastage comes at a very high price to the South African economy and environment,’ states the WWF report. Additionally, it influences the competitiveness of the food production industry, increasing the cost of food overall, and decreasing retail wages and job availability.
The goal to change the problem, however, can only be reached by working together to reduce waste on all levels, households included. 90% of the wasted food in homes makes its way to our landfills, where it emits methane gas and carbon dioxide – both greenhouse gases connected to disruptive climate change.
What can we do?
Saving food in the home will not only reduce your grocery budget, but will also contribute to the nationwide efforts to save food, money and resources. Here are some practical tips:
- Only buy what you need. A little preparation goes a long way to streamline your week’s schedule and your grocery purchases. Plan a week’s worth of meals and write a detailed grocery list to guide your shopping.
- Take note of expiry dates of perishable produce. Cook items in the fridge with earlier expiry dates first, then finish off the week with recipes that use long-lasting, pantry staples.
- Learn how to store fresh produce properly. Only wash fruit and vegetables just before you need to eat them to prevent mould from growing. Store bananas separately, as they cause surrounding fruit to ripen quicker. Freeze bread and pre-cut fruit and vegetables for when you need them.
- Extend the lifespan of your less perishable items. Store chips, biscuits and crackers in airtight containers, and take note of the expiry dates of tinned and preserved items.
- Use up all your leftovers. Only dish up what you intend to eat, and store any leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
- Start a compost heap. Toss offcuts or any decaying food in a compost heap and use the resultant nutrient-dense soil to grow your own vegetables at home.
The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE.
- Ecolution Consulting, (2017). South Africa’s Food Waste Crisis. [online] Available at: http://ecolution.co.za/2017/10/16/south-africas-food-waste-crisis [Accessed 14 July 2018].
- WWF, (2017). The Truth About Our Food Waste Problem. [online] Available at: http://www.wwf.org.za/?21962/The-truth-about-our-food-waste-problem [Accessed 14 July 2018].
- WWF, (2017). Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Futures. [online] Available at: http://awsassets.wwf.org.za/downloads/WWF_Food_Loss_and_Waste_WEB.pdf [Accessed 14 July 2018].