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Food waste
© Paballo Thekiso

An absurd amount of the food produced in the world today – as much as a third – goes to waste across the supply chain. A third of all edible food in South Africa is never consumed and ends up in landfill, adding pressure to an already over-extended waste system. Meanwhile, millions don’t have enough to eat.

What is the issue?

This wastefulness is in stark contrast to the evidence that millions of South Africans in both urban and rural areas are going hungry every day. There are environmental implications as well. Embedded water and energy costs, together with the cost of disposing of this unused food means that food wastage comes at a very high price to the South African economy and the environment!

Many of the actions required to reduce food waste at the various points along the supply chain are already well formulated. The challenge is transferring this knowledge to where it is needed – within government, the business sector and households.

The South African government has made a global commitment to halve food waste by 2030, which is Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. Government is now obligated to create the political and social environment conducive to adopting the available ideas.

What are we doing?

WWF’s Food Practice aims to help raise awareness and understanding of the challenge, support efforts to gather and collate data and work with stakeholders to promote the necessary solutions.

How do we do this?

WWF works to tackle food loss and waste in a number of ways. These include research and scoping the extent of the challenge, testing possible approaches and solutions, advocating for action across sectors and promoting collaborative government and business action.

Research includes both qualitative studies of attitudes and understanding as well as more data-driven approaches such as using lifecycle analysis to understand hotspots in food product value chains.

Reducing food waste, and specifically waste prevention, presents an opportunity for a material shift in the system. The retail and food manufacturing sector in South Africa is well placed to take action both up and down the value chain. WWF research has revealed a lack of co-ordinated effort to identify and address the causes of waste and to drive the adoption of the necessary processes and practices in the private sector. 

Who do we work with?

We work with a number of partners to address the challenge from national government through to food businesses and academia.

How did it start?

WWF has been working to address food waste for a number of years and it forms a key element of the strategy to shift our food system onto a more equitable and sustainable trajectory.

WWF released the Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Futures report at the 2017 WWF Living Planet Conference. By pulling what is known about the challenge, and what can be done, into a single accessible source we sparked a national conversation about the issue and action of critical stakeholders.

In 2018, WWF launched a project to highlight the opportunity to redirect surplus – still perfectly edible and nutritional – food to vulnerable communities. 

What are the big wins?
  1. Through WWF’s Food waste and loss: Facts and Futures, which included many strong infographics, the topic of food waste was featured in the ensuing months in 72 media clips with most of the coverage in broadcast media and the rest in print and online.

  2. The successful launch of the surplus food project in 2018 helped to frame the business case and promote a policy process to explore the opportunity for enabling legislation to increase food donations.