Food Wastage in South Africa

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Food Wastage in South Africa

Food Wastage in South Africa

How to Reduce Food Waste in your Home

In a scientific article published in 2012, it is estimated that 1.4 million tonnes of food are wasted in South African homes each year.  The cost to society associated with food waste in homes alone was approximately R21.7 Billion per annum in 2012.   This is 0.8% of South Africa’s annual GDP.  This includes that cost of the food waste in households plus the cost of the disposal.  What’s worse is that these figures do not include food waste from restaurants, grocery stores or other food industries.  These figures only account for less than 4% of South Africa’s total food waste across the food supply chain.

In 2017, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF-SA) reported that a third of our food ends up at the dump.  That is 10 million tonnes per year!  Don’t you think that this is a very serious matter for a third world country that is poverty stricken, where farmers face droughts and other challenges to grow their crops / livestock and more recently a country that cannot meet the energy demands of its people.  The energy wasted each year to produce the food that is wasted could supply electricity to the city of Johannesburg for almost 16 weeks!

Comparing the stats from 2012 and WWF’s stats in 2017, figures have gone up significantly.  It will only get worse if we do not do something about this.

What’s wrong with wasting food?

  • Loss of potential nutrients and food sources.
  • Loss of a resource for energy production or compost
  • The cost and resources such as water and energy during the food supply chain are wasted.
  • Cost implications faced by landfill sites.
  • Production of methane gas (a poisonous greenhouse gas) and carbon dioxide from the landfill sites that have a high concentration of food waste. Over this century, it has been shown that methane impact on the environment has been significantly greater than carbon dioxide.

Let’s save the environment and the economy by reducing food waste in our homes.  We can make a difference – every home helps!

  1. Plan your meals for the week and do your grocery shopping for that week.

This will prevent you from purchasing food items that you do not necessarily use.

  1. FIFO method

First-in-First-Out (FIFO) is what most food industries (should) practice to avoid food wastage.  Food products that are brought in first are used before the newer food products.

  1. Use left-overs

It is often seen in households that more food is cooked than is needed for one meal.  Instead of keeping it in the fridge until it goes off, rather re-use it at your next meal.


Left-over Bolognese can be re-used as mince on toast with an egg for breakfast, cottage pie, lasagne, it can even be used as a pizza topping.  Add some kidney beans (extra fibre 😊) and you have chilli con carne or tacos.

Vegetables – So often good intentions at the beginning of the week to eat a salad every day turn into a fridge full of sad looking wilted vegetables.  These are not exciting in a salad unless they are fresh and crispy.  Soups and stews are a great way to salvage these vegetables.

Not only is avocado expensive but it is a great source of healthy mono-unsaturated fats, so wastage needs to be avoided.  Opened / sliced avocado can be saved by mashing it into guacamole and adding lemon juice or white vinegar.  This will keep it fresh and stop from turning brown for about a day or two.  This is great on toast, as a dip, or add it to wraps.

  1. Donate

If you know that you aren’t going to eat your left-over food, then rather offer it to someone that you know will appreciate it – or someone less fortunate than you (while it is still fresh and edible!).

  1. Compost

Start a compost heap.  For foods that are too far gone to donate or salvage into a soup, then a compost heap is a great option.

  1. Food Expiry dates – use your 5 senses – does it smell foul? Is it the wrong colour?  Does it feel slimy?  Does it make a popping sound when you open the container?  Does it taste sour if it is not normally sour?  Most of the time, expiry dates are there to protect the retailer or producer.  Some foods are still fresh and edible after the expiry date.


  1. Freeze

If you know that you only eat half a loaf of bread before it turns into a science experiment, then freeze half of the loaf on the day that you buy it.  When your fresh bread runs out, then take the other half out the freezer.  You can freeze breads, left-over meals, cooked and pureed vegetables, fruits and vegetables.



  1. Nahman A et al, The costs of household food waste in South Africa, Elsevier, Volume 32, Issue 11, November 2012, Pages 2147-2153
  2. http://www.wwf.org.za/?21962/The-truth-about-our-food-waste-problem
  3. https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/opinion/by-invitation/cost-south-africas-food-loss-waste/