SOUTH AFRICA – Supermarket group Pick n Pay (PnP) has achieved more than half of its volume target of food waste reduction in its operations in the past four years, PnP environment, social, and governance executive Vaughan Pierce said during an inaugural 1.5 Degrees: A Net Zero conference.

The grocery store has attained a 28% reduction and is working towards reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.

The global food system, majorly through discarded food, produces a significant amount of methane in landfills, which is reportedly much more powerful at warming the planet than carbon dioxide emissions.

Global food loss and waste generate about 8% of total emissions, nearly equivalent to global road transport emissions.

Mr. Pierce explained that the company had moved to a circular economy way of operating, having increased the amount of surplus food it diverted from landfill through donations and recoveries, as well as invested in a waste management dashboard to have a consolidated view of its waste activities.

Up to today, PnP has donated about 880 t of edible surplus food to the public benefit organization FoodForward South Africa, valued at more than R35-million.

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

“The impact of food waste on the environment goes beyond just the product disposed of, but included the natural resources used to produce it, from energy and water to transport and packaging.”

At the same time, Pick n Pay claims to be the first retailer in South Africa to remove all plastic barrier bags from its till points as a new sustainability move.

The supermarket group noted that the new policy will prevent over 20 million of small bags from entering the environment.

Pierce pointed out that the company has been on a journey to reduce problematic single-use plastic packaging as the small clear plastic barrier bags are not currently recycled effectively, and by removing them at till points, the company can play a part in reducing reliance on unnecessary single-use plastic.

Pick n Pay will still have barrier bags in its fruit and vegetable section for loose produce, but continues to encourage customers to use alternatives, such as re-useable netted produce bags, which it stocks in all its stores nationwide.

Stores traditionally used barrier bags to separate selected products, such as fresh produce, toiletries, or cleaning products, from other groceries.

Over the past five years, Pierce said more than 10,000 tonnes of plastic have been removed from the environment to make Pick n Pay’s 100% recyclable blue plastic bags, and over 11 million plastic bottles have been recycled to manufacture the retailer’s reusable shopping bags since 2018.

Pick n Pay is a founding member of the SA Plastics Pact, launched in January 2020 to establish a collective commitment to ensure plastic never becomes waste or pollution in the country.

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