Waste not, want not…

''Together we can make a difference.'' - Sibanye Recycling.
''Together we can make a difference.'' - Sibanye Recycling.

A fascinating report on the amount of food wasted globally makes for compelling reading, if only to remind us of the throw-away society we live in.
The city’s battle to contain illegal dumping is a symptom, another is the bins of food deemed no longer fit for human consumption outside restaurants and even supermarkets.
According to the World Bank report, between 25 % and 33 % of the food produced in the world goes to waste. In regions where undernourishment is rife, such as Africa and south Asia, food losses translate to 400 to 500 calories per person, per day. In the developed world, the losses are in the region of between 750 to 1 500 calories per day.
Cereals represent more than half of all food lost or wasted, 53 % by calorie content. By weight, fruit and vegetables represent the largest share of global food loss and waste.
While most losses take place at the consumption, production and handling and storage stages of the food chain, regional breakdowns show noted differences.
In North America, about 61 % of losses are in the consumption stage, such as food purchased and left rotting in refrigerators. In sub-Saharan Africa, just 5 % of food losses are at the consumption stage, but vast amounts of food are wasted during production and processing.
It stands to reason that food loss and waste also causes huge inefficiencies in economic, energy and natural resource use. The amount of water used to grow apples, or irrigate field crops, or roast coffee, is also wasted if the end product is lost along the way.
The scenario also speaks of a greater dependency on the centralised production of food and the concomitant decline of self-sufficiency. This reality was particularly manifest during a trip through the Transkei part of the Eastern Cape where little or no effort is made to grow anything by rural households.
A contributory factor, we’re told, is the government’s grant system that has encouraged a culture of dependency and spawned consumption, mostly in shops selling processed food.
The World Bank report is somewhat thin on solutions to limit waste, but does suggest changing agricultural production techniques, making large investments in transport and storage infrastructure, and changing consumer and commercial behaviour.
Much as the reference to changing consumer and commercial behaviour refers to buying decisions, perhaps it’s time to also revisit the production side of the equation.
In times gone by, having a productive vegetable garden was a matter of pride, not to mention a source of fresh, wholesome food. Ironically, proponents of growing their own food, or at least some of what they eat, do so in response to the commercial industry’s reliance on pesticides and herbicides.
Keen to avoid the poisons and residues in produce, these home gardeners also strike a blow for self-sufficiency, a trend that is guaranteed to grow in popularity.

Derek Alberts

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