Rethink/Redesign/Refuse waste in the Zimbabwean food industry

by Rumbidzai Mashavave

The three principles of a circular economy are to design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. Industries largely in Europe and China that have since embraced circular economy principles in their businesses have cited compliance to policy and realization of economic benefits to the business as being the main drivers to a transition to a circular economy.

Principle 1: Design out waste and pollution.

In the food industry, a study revealed that restaurants experience up to a 14-fold return on their investment in food waste reduction programs. As of 2019, 10 of the world’s largest food brands such as PepsiCo and Unilever have committed to food waste reduction strategies the household and publish food waste data.

In Africa there is little known activities regarding the circular economy. It could be a lack of awareness of circular economy or the lack of publication of activities and strategies that have been implemented. Some initiatives are classified under climate change, social corporate responsibility or sustainability but are within the principles of the circular economy.  An example is how Zimbabwe has designed out waste and pollution, enabled by policy. What makes policy work is the existence of the policy (policy makers), the enforcement of the policy (law enforcers) and compliance (industry/consumers).

Case Study – Zimbabwe

Policy: Statutory Instrument (SI) 84 (Plastic packaging and plastic bottles) of 2012 Amendment (1), which bans the use of polystyrene also known as kaylite packaging due to environmental and health reasons. It is a popular food packaging in the commercial food industry which cannot be recyclable but usually burned to produce styrene gas.

Enforcement: The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) advised the Zimbabwean government to invoke the statutory instrument. Businesses using the banned packaging were fined.  Fines were issued to businesses still using kaylite.

Compliance: It was met with resistance but  by 2017, 85% of the commercial food sector was complying.  In 2019, 80 small and medium enterprises (distributors) were arrested and fined. Planas, a local manufacturer invested in new machinery to produce high-density polyethylene food packaging.

Immediate  effects– Planas had to lay off 70 employees and lose monthly sales of ZW$250,000 to $300,000. A barrier to a transition to the circular economy is the financial commitment required in purchasing, new equipment as in this case. In the long run, new jobs are created and with support from the supply chain, demand is restored. In the long term, there is a reduction in air pollution from the incineration of kaylite packaging.

This is one example of how Zimbabwe is refusing waste out of many that are taking place at small scale in Africa as a whole. However, more needs to be done at household, community and at national level in African countries for significant impact on food security, environmental health and public heath realized through a transition to a circular economy.

MaP – Waste is a resource.

2 thoughts on “Rethink/Redesign/Refuse waste in the Zimbabwean food industry

  1. Thank you Rumbidzai for this post. I really like the three conditions that make policies work; I think they can apply in most countries. Zimbabwe had some great lessons to share with the rest of the world.


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