Exploring alternatives to divert food waste from landfill disposal in Rustenburg, North-West
Around one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted globally, with the majority of this waste being landfilled. This is troublesome, especially in developing countries, where access to food and hunger have been raised as concerns. Sources of food waste include household, commercial, industrial, and agricultural waste, and its composition differs, depending on source and type. The disposal of food waste leads to a loss of resources in the food production life cycle, while landfilling also leads to negative environmental impacts. The waste management hierarchy advocates the disposal of waste as the least preferable option, with alternatives such as re-use, recycling and treatment, being more preferable. The aim of the study was to explore alternatives for the diversion of food waste from landfill disposal. The Waterval landfill site, located in the Rustenburg Local Municipality (RLM) was selected as a case example for what could typically be expected for a South African landfill site. Food waste was characterised (in quantity and type) over a five-day period, supported by secondary weigh bridge data, and data gathered during interviews. Two-hundred-and-twenty-one kilogrammes (221 kg) of waste was sorted during the waste characterisation study, with a total of 65,18 kg (29.5%) being food waste. Fruits and vegetables, bakery items and mixed food are the three types of food that were found to be present in the largest quantities. The results of the study compared well with what other researchers have found elsewhere in South Africa. Literature was reviewed to determine which alternatives to landfilling would be the most suitable for the food waste characterised at the Waterval landfill site, based on factors such as food waste composition and estimated quantities, cost, technology required, creation of job opportunities, etc. The results of comparing alternative methods showed that composting and livestock feeding were the most suitable alternatives, based on the waste quantities and types. Anaerobic digestion was also considered, but not found feasible due to the amount of food waste required for sustainable, ongoing anaerobic digestion. Incineration was considered as an option, but were not considered feasible, due to its low position on the food waste hierarchy, and limited incineration capacity in RLM. Interviews with staff from the RLM indicated that alternative initiatives would be supported. Review of documentation, such as the integrated waste management plan (IWMP) and integrated development plan (IDP) has indicated that the reduction of food waste to landfill has been identified as a priority within the municipality. The allocation of operational budget towards the investigation and implementation of alternatives has, however, been identified as being a gap.