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Minister Barbara Creecy: Food and packaging waste prevention and reduction initiative

23 Mar 2022

Address by Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, at the closing event of the Food and packaging waste prevention and reduction initiative

Her Excellency, Dr Riina Kionka, EU Ambassador
Mr Gareth Ackerman, Co-Chairperson of Consumer Goods Council of South Africa
Programme Director

Ladies and Gentlemen, greetings!

A special greeting and appreciation to the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and the EU-SA Dialogue Facility for organising this special event of closing off the work that began in 2019 and to reflect on the progress and achievements made so far towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of reducing food loss and waste by 50% by year 2030.

The Covid-19 pandemic that started in 2020, aggravated the already existing challenges on food production and consumption, but also provided us all with opportunities to rethink our practices as we grappled with changes in consumer buying habits and global supply chain disruptions.

The 2018 State of Waste report estimated that of the 55.6 million tonnes of general waste that was generated in South Africa, 19 247 851 tonnes was organic waste (incl. food waste)  and 65.2 % was landfilled.

The Food and Packaging Waste Prevention and Reduction Initiative seeks to address food security from the perspective of avoiding food waste. Food loss and waste is a recognised global issue which is also affecting South Africa. According to the Department of Science of Innovation and CSIR, an estimated 10.3 million tonnes of food and beverages, which is about 34.3% of local food production, is wasted per year in South Africa amounting to R61.5 billion per annum.

While our country has these shocking food waste statistics, we also have a problem of acute food insecurity. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a common global scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and malnutrition. Globally, indications are that around 800 million people are undernourished It is concerning that in 2020, 9.34 million people in South Africa suffered from acute food insecurity and urgent action is required to reduce food gaps and protect livelihoods according to Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

This requires urgent intervention directed at that those identified areas and populations with food deprivation that threatens livelihoods, regardless of the causes, context or duration. South Africa’s deteriorating food security is mainly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, high food prices, drought and economic decline. StatsSA indicates that almost 20% of South African households have inadequate access to food.

In 2021, during the Launch of the South African Food Loss and Waste Voluntary Agreement as part of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, I mentioned that as government we are working hard in reviewing existing legislation and developing new policy instruments for better management of our waste and to encourage and inspire innovation in the waste management and food production sectors.

2022 is a vital year in the implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for packaging products. We have seen that a large number of producers have come forward to register and there are a number of producer responsibility organisations that have been registered to manage packaging products. The Department is working with stakeholders in support of the EPR schemes and their implementation

This month, we also took a decision with other member states at UNEA 5.2 to curb plastic pollution. However, as a Department we realise that we need to ensure that the transition for plastic packaging is phased, and that the circumstances of the domestic plastic industry are addressed, as there are close linkages with the food industry. We commit to working with stakeholders to ensure that pollution is addressed and food waste is also reduced.

In South Africa the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), 2020, as part of Government’s strategic priority to minimise waste to landfill by 45% by 2025, has identified food waste and loss as  a critical area that requires intervention.

Therefore, as a direct response to NWMS, 2020, SDG: 12 and government priorities as a whole, a Draft Food Loss and Waste Strategy is under development, which will:

  • Increase awareness on the impact of food waste,
  • align with Chemicals and Waste Economy initiatives,
  • strongly integrate different disciplinary perspectives and best practices, and
  • map out the determinants of food waste generation to deepen the understanding of household practices and help design food waste prevention strategies.

All key stakeholders in the food value chain are encouraged to participate in the development of this strategy for reducing food losses and waste, that will in turn inform effective and efficient food waste management solutions and will also contribute in addressing our challenges relating to unemployment, food security, economic recovery and growing the economy.

Food and beverage waste also has a significant impact on the environment due to methane gas which contribute to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions produced when food spoils. Food production is resource intensive, resources such as water, labour and energy are wasted and biodiversity is impacted upon negatively.

South Africa remains committed to achieving the SDGs, especially 12.3 “By 2030, halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chain”. Globally, food loss and waste represent 8% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (4.4 gigatons CO2e annually), offering opportunity for meaningful reductions. Given the Constitutional obligation to protect the environment from pollution, the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is a strategic partner in this initiative.

Importantly, in the face of climate change and increasing temperatures and water scarcity, reducing food waste also has a significant role to play in our transition to a low- carbon society. Adapting to climate change will mean we as a society will have to transition to cultivating less water-intensive crops, and will have to seriously address the problem of wastage when confronted with less available land suitable for agriculture.

In closing, I would like to express our appreciation to all the signatories to the Voluntary Agreement, other government departments and bodies who are associate signatories to the agreement, stakeholders, and the strategic partners for your participation in driving this initiative.

The South African government and all the sectors involved in the food value chain have greatly benefitted from this partnership with the EU-SA Dialogue Facility, and this will add value to our efforts of improved waste management, implementing a circular economy, and preparing ourselves for the transition to a climate resilient society

I wish to you all the best as you reflect on the work done so far and the deliberations on the implementation of the plans going forward for contributing towards halving food loss and waste by the year 2030.

Thank You.

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