By Dr Suzall Timm

Regulating Food Waste in the City

Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Food Studies,

For: Theme on Food Production and Sustainability

27 October 2017, University of Tre, Rome


Approximately 10 million tons of waste which constitute a third of food in South Africa goes to waste every year. Most of the food wastage and loss occur early in the food-supply chain and continues right through to the post-consumer phase. Post-consumer constitutes a large percentage of what into goes into household bins and has major implications for landfills in cities. Like local governments elsewhere, the City of Cape Town plays an important role as the key regulatory agent of post-consumer waste. Waste management regulation is put in place to manage food wastage at the municipal level with an underlying logic to waste less to prevent large amounts of food waste from going to landfills. The City of Cape Town’s innovative and effective waste management system has various organic recycling and composting initiatives in place to divert food waste from landfills. Although innovative and effective, it is merely a temporary technological solution to the broader issue of wastefulness and consumption in an inequitable society. This paper draws on the City of Cape Town, South Africa a case study to examine conceptions of food waste, how waste pickers who interact with food waste are viewed and criminalised in high food waste suburbs, and “food waste” reflects different meanings such as abundance versus scarcity. The paper argues that the regulation of food waste through organic recycling as a solution fails to address broader patterns of consumption and wastage in the city instead waste management regulation reflects a neoliberal politics that normalizes wasteful consumption.

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