Food Processing

The following sample essay on “Food Processing”: how to recycle food waste and food packaging.

Between 20% to 40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets as waste before they even are placed on the store shelves (OVO Energy, 2013). Waste is regarded as any substance, material, or object, that is unwanted, rejected, abandoned, discarded or disposed of, or that of intended or required to be discarded or disposed of by the holder of the substance, material, or object, whether or not such substance can be reused, recycled or recovered.

Worldwide, the generation of waste is rising due to urbanization, production, and consumption. In 2016, cities throughout the world generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, amounting to an average of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to approximately 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050. (World Bank, 2019). In many developing countries, the management of waste remains a great challenge. World Bank stated that waste management is seen to be costly and often makes up to 20%-50% of budgets at the municipal.

Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies have always been known to provide food to society. But in the process, waste is produced, such as containers, packaging, and even food waste. Waste can be hazardous or non-hazardous, the mishandling of hazardous waste is extremely damaging to the environment and human beings. The mishandling of waste can lead to different forms of pollution and contamination. There are potential risks of mishandling waste such as spills of waste, fires, reactions, and even exposure to toxic chemicals.

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The failure to collect and sort waste can lead to air pollution, flooding, public health issues such as breathing problems, diarrhea, etc. (World Bank, 2019) The failure of the handling waste in the correct manner and according to regulations, organizations are breaking compliance resulting in fines, costly legal fees, closures of facilities and in the worst cases imprisonment. The mishandling of waste can also create huge reputation damages to the facilities.

Containers and packaging make up a major share of municipal solid waste (MSW), approximately 80.1 million tons of generation in 2017 (29.9 percent of total generation) in the United States alone. The packaging is the product used to wrap or protect food, beverages, medications, etc, known to be cardboard boxes and plastics. Containers and packaging are used in the exporting of goods, storage, and protection of products. (EPA, 2019).

When waste is handled correctly, recyclable waste can be identified. Recycling of waste is a way to save money and, in some countries, its seen to be a source of income. For example, for every tonne of paper recycled, 17 trees and 50 percent of water can be saved. Recycling of waste has created jobs, with the recycling sector employing 12 million people in Brazil, China, and the United States alone. (UNEP, 2020).

South Africa, like many other emerging countries, faces numerous challenges with waste management which harms the environment. One of many challenges is a historical build-up of waste services in urban and rural areas. From 2007, 61% of all South African households had access to domestic waste removable services from their homes. This access to waste removal remains highly in favor of more wealthy and urban communities. Ineffective waste services lead to poor living conditions and an unhealthy environment. (DEA, 2019).

As per National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008), the “Waste Act”, any substance, material or object, that is unwanted, rejected, abandoned, discarded or disposed of, or that is intended or required to be discarded or disposed of, by the holder of that substance, material or object, whether or not such substance, material or object can be reused, recycled or recovered and includes all wastes as defined in Schedule 3 to this Act; or (b) any other substance, material or object that is not included in Schedule 3 that may be defined as a waste by the Minister by notice in the Gazette, but any waste or portion of waste, referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b), ceases to be a waste. (NEMWA, 2014). In South Africa, the waste management hierarchy as outlined by the National Waste Management Strategy and this allows for waste prevention and minimization should be the first option before reuse, recycling, recovery, and disposal with treatment. (Figure 1), (DEA, 2019). Food industries in KwaZulu Natal, have taken steps with regards to waste reduction, recycling, and reuse of materials. All products that are manufactured should be according to environmentally friendly conditions and standards. (Katsikeas, 2016). By altering business processes to align with the waste management hierarchy, this will shift FMCG companies to sustainability.

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Food Processing
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