What Nigeria Can Learn from South Korea on Food Waste Management

What Nigeria Can Learn from South Korea on Food Waste Management

By Nnamdi Odumody

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. The 1 billion hungry people in the world could be fed on less than a quarter of the food wasted in the United States of America and Europe. Simply, food waste is a major problem in the world, creating disequilibrium where some regions waste food even as others go hungry.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 35-50 percent post harvest losses for perishable agricultural products are lost annually in the region due to poor planting practices.

In a recent report released by the World Economic Forum, cutting food waste by 20 million tonnes could help the transformation of global food systems by 2030.

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South Korea recycles 95 percent of its food waste. Its citizens generate more than 130 kg of food waste every year. In 2005, dumping of food in landfills was banned, and in 2013, compulsory recycling of food waste was introduced, using special biodegradable bags. An average family of four pays $6 a month for the bags which encourages home composting.

The bag charges meet 60 percent cost of running the scheme, and increased the amount of food waste recycled from 2 percent in 1995 to 95 percent presently. The South Korean government approved the use of recycled food waste as fertilizer although some wastes are also deployed as animal feed.

In Seoul, its capital city, 6,000 automated bins equipped with scales and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) weigh food waste as it is being deposited in real time, and charges residents using an ID card. This had led to the reduction of food waste in the city by 47,000 tonnes, in six years, according to city officials. Before depositing waste, its residents remove moisture to reduce the weight which helps in reducing their charges as food waste is 80 percent moisture, saving the city $8.4 million in collection charges within the period.

Recycling food waste in action (source: icas)

The waste collected using the biodegradable bag scheme is squeezed at the processing plant to remove moisture which is used to create biogas and bio oil. The dry waste in then turned to fertilizer for its urban farm industry which has increased in the past seven years, covering 170 hectares of community space in Seoul with the local administration providing between 80-100 percent of  startup costs.

Urban farming has helped to unite residents who are isolated from one another, and the city’s leadership plans to install waste composters to support this growing trend.

Nigeria and the rest of Africa can learn useful lessons from the South Koreans, in the sustainable management of waste, to create a circular economy that will make our environment livable for the 21st century.

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