BY: Mpofu Sthandile.

In the past four years, the retailer has reduced the volume of food waste in its operations by nearly 30% (28%) as it works towards its target of 50% by 2030. It has also successfully donated over 880 tonnes of edible surplus food to FoodForward SA, valued at over R35 million.

 Pick n Pay is increasing its commitment to reducing food waste as environmental, business and moral cases become more prevalent in South Africa. The global food system, primarily through discarded food, produces a significant amount of methane – reported to be 28 times more powerful than CO2 at warming the planet.

 Vaughan Pierce, Executive: ESG at Pick n Pay, spoke at the inaugural 1.5 Degrees A Net Zero conference (28-30 March 2023) on Thursday about their successful ‘avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle’ waste management hierarchy.

 During the Journey to Net Zero Waste and Food Waste panel at the conference, Pierce said, “by moving more to a circular economy approach, we have increased the amount of surplus food we divert from landfill through donations and recoveries.” He said Pick n Pay has also invested in an innovative waste management dashboard to have a consolidated view of its waste activities. “This has dramatically assisted in improving recycling, increasing waste resource donations and reducing waste to landfill.”

 “We have set ambitious targets to reduce food losses at our operations and along production and supply chains. This helps us lessen our impact on the environment, but also contributes to business efficiencies.”

 “We always aim to prevent food from becoming waste through better demand planning and ordering. But when it does occur, we prioritise donating surplus food that has reached its sell-by date but not use-by date to a range of charities. This redistribution of food supports thousands of families.

 Reducing food waste in a country with such high food insecurity is essential but also necessary when considering the environmental footprint associated with throwing away food. Global food loss and waste generate about 8% of total emissions, which is nearly equivalent to global road transport emissions.

 This is leading the call for a net-zero waste approach in the country. The impact of food waste on the environment goes beyond just the product disposed of in the bin. It includes the natural resources used to produce the food – from the energy and water to grow it and the energy to harvest, transport, and package it – as well as the energy to dispose of food waste.

 “Aiming for net zero waste can incentivise businesses and individuals to adopt more circular business models and waste reduction strategies, which can create economic opportunities and promote innovation,” said Pierce.

 Kevin James, CEO: GCX Global Carbon Exchange, who also spoke on the panel, said that businesses and governments would play a crucial role in achieving net zero waste. “Governments can set targets and regulations for waste reduction and incentivise businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Businesses can take the lead in implementing circular business models, reducing waste throughout their supply chains, and incentivising their employees and customers to reduce waste.”

 “The Sustainable Development Goals call for a reduction in waste under many of the targets. The best way to do this is to avoid the waste in the first place and in order to do this, we need to understand what is making its way to landfill, firstly by auditing and then through regular monitoring, said fellow panellist Chantal Motilall, Sustainability Manager at Don’t Waste. “After that, some of the biggest obstacles to achieving net zero waste are lack of infrastructure and investment in waste management systems.”

 “Emerging technologies and innovations play a critical role in waste reduction by providing new ways to manage waste more sustainably, such as through advanced recycling technologies, smart waste management systems, and supply chain management; all of which supports circular economy and therefore avoids waste in the first place,” added Motilall.

Motilall and James agreed that the launch of effective awareness campaigns encouraging consumer participation in waste reduction efforts is paramount. Through Pick n Pay School Club – with a school network of over 3,000 schools, Pierce says they foster a culture of sustainability through community events and engagements.


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