Dignity for waste pickers

“You shall not strip your vineyard bare or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. ”

Leviticus 19:10

Food waste is a huge problem. In South Africa, 10 million tonnes of food go to waste every year. That’s a third the 31 million tonnes produced annually in South Africa.

Of this, fruits, vegetables and cereals account for 70% of the wastage and loss primarily throughout the food supply chain – from farm to fork.

About 90% of waste in SA is disposed of to landfills, where the food-waste component leads to the production of methane gas and carbon dioxide.

Successfully cutting food loss and waste is a chance to turn around severe food insecurity felt by significant portions of the population.

When waste food is mixed in with the rubbish, it means that it cannot be eaten and also makes the job of waste pickers very unpleasant, as they have to scratch through mouldy food and maggots to find anything they can sell.

What we can all do is separate our recyclables, and rinse them out, before putting in a bag outside on bin day. In this way the waste pickers can take those recyclables with dignity.

What about left over food? Here are some suggestions, see what works in your context – and remembering food will spoil quickly in the heat!

  • Hang bread , baked goods etc in a closed bag on your gate to keep them away from animals and flies
  • If you have left over cooked food, freeze it over night and put it out in a cardboard takeway packet. (check what time the waste pickers come so that it is not sitting for very long)
  • Check your tinned and packaged goods regularly and leave those you are not going to use out before they are expired.
  • If you have bought too much of a certain fruit or vegetable put it out for the waste pickers before it goes off!

Please share your ideas we are all learning together!!

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