“There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed.”
We produce enough food to feed everyone, but rampant wastage leads to shortages.
There is waste along the food value chain, from production to consumption. Efforts are made to close the loop, with the acknowledgment of the need for better and more accessible organic waste management. Globally, almost 800 million people go hungry every day owing to inefficiencies in the management of food systems (WWF 2017). According to available estimates, in sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 37% of all the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. (The Africa Waste Management Outlook 2018)
Waste management should be supported by robust data. Producers, restaurants, retailers and consumers are in a position to measure what matters to them. Dashboards are a great way to gain insight into your operations, that can be conveyed to key stakeholders with visual data that tells a story. Want to convince your customers that you are a truly “green” grocer that recycles 90% of waste generated in-store? Are you a restaurant that sends zero organic waste to landfills? Support your narrative with transparent data. End-consumers can understand their waste footprint by monitoring recycling, organic waste and landfill waste at home. If you choose the right metric, you can tell the right story.
Retailers are in a strong position to make changes that support a more inclusive food ecosystem. Large South African retailers are lagging behind global trends – locally we tend to focus on ‘buy in bulk and save’: a great solution for staples, but perishables spoil. It’s not much of a saving if the food ends up in the bin! While it is encouraging that many retailers are embracing plastic-free and packaging-free products, we should look at the balance between managing food waste and the packaging used. There is an opportunity to explore solutions that do not sacrifice either.
Globally there has been a rise in awareness of aesthetic choices for produce that leads to rejected fruits and vegetables being turned to feed instead of food, or even worse, left rotting in the field. Many international supermarkets are offering these “ugly foods” such as blemished, misshapen, or discoloured fruits and vegetables at discount prices. Foods that are approaching their sell-by dates are frequently also offered at cost to minimise waste, as well as recouping costs on the retailers’ part.
Managing waste in the hospitality industry is critical. Restaurants are shifting to farm-to-table models that focus on seasonality, sustainability and clean eating. Procurement is tightly controlled to ensure as little as possible goes to waste, this is of utmost importance in where margins are already narrow. Portions are smaller, focusing on the experience and respect for ingredients. Produce and meats are sustainably sourced, and when not plant-forward restaurants advocate for nose-to-tail eating, not focusing on the prime cuts but ensuring that no part of the animal goes to waste.
Household food waste is a little closer to home, in these tight economic times we understand that food wasted is money wasted. But it can be tough to use up all those perishables you picked up on sale. A growing trend for communities to pool resources and cook in groups has eased the burden on smaller or single households, especially if you are dreading a week of identical lunch boxes. There’s always the old-school preservation methods if you end up with too much fruit and vegetables – think artisanal jams, pickles, preserves. Food banks and soup kitchens, or simply handing out food parcels to people in need, are other ways to ensure that no one goes hungry.
The Western Cape is aiming for zero organic waste to landfill by 2027. To realise this, municipalities, local and provincial governments, the private sector and individuals will need to cooperate to divert organic waste to accessible composting facilities, and other waste management structures. Households engagement will play a crucial role – waste reduction, separation at source, and home composting are vital to tackling the crisis.
Learn more about waste value chains and TOMA-Now’s dashboard solutions. We unlock value in waste.
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