South Africa is a country of contrasts. We may complain about load shedding but at the same time we are the first to make a joke about Eskom turning off the lights. And while this inward-looking ability is what makes us so attractive, South African citizens have also shown their resilience in meeting challenges.
Earlier this year, it was reported that one in 10 South Africans go hungry every day. And, in the world’s most unequal country among the 164 countries in the World Bank’s global poverty database, this hunger crisis coexists with a growing problem of food waste.
Food waste is a recognized global problem, with 10 million tonnes of food being wasted each year in South Africa, a third of the 31 million tonnes produced in the country each year, according to the South African World Wide Fund for Nature.
Ordinary citizens unintentionally waste food, while restaurants, food producers and large grocery stores have faced harsh criticism for throwing away food that was still edible. To counteract this negative publicity, campaigns showing these companies’ commitment to reducing food waste and promoting food safety have gained prominence in recent years.
Despite this, savvy consumers were quick to point out that many of these corporations are simply greenwashing their efforts and failing to take transparent and actionable steps to address the problem.
At the local level, retailer Woolworths has been a good example of the impact that a transparent food safety and food waste strategy can have on communities. The retailer donates surplus food to more than 1,000 charities annually, has pioneered date labeling to preserve shelf life, uses fit-for-purpose packaging, and promotes sustainable farming practices among its suppliers, while also using fruit and oddly shaped vegetables for your prepared foods.
It has published a Position Statement on Food Waste and Food Safety that outlines its initiatives that support food safety and food waste reduction and publishes an annual Good Business Journey Report that tracks its progress and partnerships with nonprofit organizations. profit.
While the efforts of Woolworths and other retailers are laudable, ordinary citizens also have a role to play.
Sure, we can commit to buying only from retailers with a strong food safety and food waste mandate or eating at restaurants that promote sustainable practices, but there are other ways we can make an impact, without leaving our homes.
For one thing, advice on how to ensure our food lasts longer is prevalent online, while there are plenty of creative ways to use leftovers in new dishes. Another solution is to recycle our food waste, making sure food doesn’t end up in landfills, while returning organic matter to the soil through processes like composting.
This circular economy process, in which modes of production and consumption involve sharing, reusing and recycling, coupled with integrated resource thinking, offers several benefits, including less food wasted, providing food security to those who need it most and contributes to regenerative agriculture. system. This is an alternative way of producing food that strengthens soil health and can increase biodiversity, improve the water cycle, enhance the ecosystem, support biological sequestration, and increase resilience to climate change.
Curbside food waste recycling services and compost drop-off centers have made it easier than ever for ordinary citizens to collect and recycle their food waste. Likewise, the Covid-19 lockdowns, which caused everyone and their grandparents to take up gardening, proved that anyone can compost at home.
Technology has also made it easier than ever to dispose of food waste, with our iCompost solution being just one example. This device, and others like it, which look at home on your kitchen counter, take kitchen waste from home and produce healthy, fertile compost in just a few hours.
Whether using old-school methods or turning to innovative technology, these practices have been adopted by South Africans of all socioeconomic levels to help combat the hunger that has become so common. In turn, it also answers the overwhelming problem of food waste.
As with other movements, South African citizens who have adopted these practices have inadvertently banded together to have an impact on others and their communities. And, as with the challenges we have faced before, we continue to show our resilience and sense of ubuntu in rebuilding our society and our environment.
Himkaar Singh is the founder of The Compost Kitchen, which works to improve soil health, and is the developer of the company’s first product, iCompost, which aims to reduce food waste by encouraging more people to compost at home. .