The minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy, recently provided important updates on different waste streams and their reduction and recycling initiatives. One of these updates was an overview on the current progress towards halving food loss and waste by 2030 (SDG 12.3).
The main aim is to avoid food waste along production supply chains and then to reduce the amount of food waste to landfill by encouraging retail outlets to implement alternative waste treatment options that circulate organic waste. Composting units are a good example of this.
Currently, there is a big need for more data capture and measurement system to analyse and track the volumes of food waste generated and recycled. There is unfortunately a data shortage that presents us with a gap in fully understanding the situation with food waste volumes generated and recycled in recent years (2019 – 2022). According to the last study done in 2018, it is estimated that of the 55.6 million tonnes of the general waste that was generated in South Africa, 19 247 851 tonnes was organic waste (including food waste) and 65% was landfilled. Since this 2018 study, there has been a lot more pressure placed on retail to reduce and recycle food and organic waste. Consumers are also beginning to understand that is it not only plastics but also their food waste that can be recycled, through technology like on-site composting units.
Talking about progress on SDG 12.3, two promising developments have been implemented in the last two years that have the potential to result in a significant amount of progress toward achieving SDG 12.3.
Firstly, in 2020 DFFE drafted and implemented a new National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) and has identified organic waste (including food waste) as a top priority. Therefore, as a direct response to NWMS, 2020, SDG: 12 and government priorities as a whole, a Draft Food Loss and Waste Strategy is currently under development.
In addition to the NWMS, the South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement was launched in 2021 to encourage retailers and producers to commit to reducing food waste along their supply chains.
With the NWMS and industry voluntary agreement, South Africa has two key mechanisms to tackle the food waste problem and keep its eyes on the 50% reduction of SDG 12.3. The priority to measure our progress is going to be ongoing and accurate data collection for us to understand our food waste economy.