Food Waste Management

Per Kate Hamilton, FoodForward SA’s fund development manager, the current food waste situation in South Africa is right up there with developed countries such as the US. A scary fact to reflect on when there are more than 14 million South Africans that go hungry every day.

So, what causes food waste?

  • Accelerated expansion and demand of food in the agricultural sector, because of a dramatic increase in urbanisation.
  • Dietary transformation demanding greater variety and resource-intensive food.
  • A drive of global trade through increase of processed goods, supermarkets and international competition to local markets.

Global Food Context

In developing countries food waste takes place largely at the start of the food supply chain, whereas in developed countries in the final stages.

The extremity and causes of the food wastage changes across suppliers and retailers in different continents. In developed countries such as Europe and North America, the cause of food wastage is mainly produced by the attitudes and behaviors of food retailers and consumers, resulting in unsustainable planning and consumption of food. In underdeveloped regions such as Africa and Asia, food misspend is a result of financial and managerial limitations and lack of infrastructure such as technology and transport for adequate food production and management.

South African Food Context


Did you know, the energy used every year to produce food that is never consumed is enough to supply the City of Johannesburg for approximately 16 weeks. In South Africa fruits, vegetables and cereals make up 70% of the food waste, occurring at the beginning stages of the food supply chain.

Food squander and poor nutrition is becoming an alarming reality, the South African diet is shifting to higher intake of processed foods, and increase in malnutrition.

With correct food waste management, the environment, health and well-being of South Africans can be improved drastically.

Public Sector Food Waste Management

In South Africa Food waste legislation is enforced by environmental health practitioners, the Dept. of Water and Sanitation and Environmental Affairs. 65-90% of organic waste is collected by municipalities and dumped at landfills. Fortunately, the government has identified this large food loss crisis in our country and has joined the UN’s sustainable development goals, of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.

Private Sector Food Waste Management

Per WWF SA survey, most of the food loss and waste, approximately 96% occur at pre-consumer stage. Contrary to this finding, majority of companies in SA have food waste targets and policies in place to decrease food wastage during their operations. However, the implementation of the policies to reach these targets often fall short due to lack of dedicated members assigned to reducing food waste. Many company perceptions still exist as a need to improve operational efficiencies and manage food costs, rather than a social and environmental responsibility.

The state of food misuse and environmental protection around the globe and especially in South Africa, is an issue that can’t be swept aside or simply dumped in landfills anymore.

Positive change has a rippling effect on others in the food supply chain. Don’t wait for another company or human being to reduce food waste, act now and develop a food waste management system in your home, office and organization to help conserve and protect the environment.

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