Stellenbosch food lab turns stale bread in 18L of hand sanitiser


While some of us have been stocking up on food, that doesn’t mean to say that we’ve stopped wasting altogether. Stellenbosch University’s Food Science Department is showing people what can be done with all their excess food waste and how it can help during this global pandemic by turning it into hand sanitiser.

Photo: Wendy Knowler, Times Select

Food is one of the few comforts we have left. Nothing is quite as comforting as sitting down after a long day of doing nothing and tucking into a deliciously warm meal you’ve heaved out the freezer. With that being said, even though we as a society are now more conscious than ever about rationing our supplies, we still throw away a lot of food. That goes for shops and supermarkets too, as they dump loads of food that’s past its best-before date. Well, Stellenbosch University has had enough and is using mountains of stale bread to develop their own hand sanitiser.

Reported by Times Select, the Food Science Department at Stellies is incredibly passionate about reducing food waste and given the current COVID-19 pandemic. They saw an opportunity to kill two germs with one soap. Given how rare hand sanitiser has become in recent days, they’ve started to produce their own with stale bread returned to distributors by supermarkets who had been unable to sell the loaves by their best-before date.

Photo: Wendy Knowler, Times Select

Speaking to Wendy Knowler for Times Select, Dr Stefan Hayward, a postdoctoral fellow, said, “Our aims are twofold…To increase the value of a traditional waste stream by turning it into a product useful in several antiseptic formulations, and applying scientific principles and knowledge in an effort to assist the public in facing the challenges which lie ahead.”

Having said that, the process isn’t exactly something you could do in your kitchen. Requiring a special enzyme to break down the starch, a fermentation tank, specialised yeast and a whopping 60kg of bread to make 18.2L of hand sanitiser, we suppose you could do it on a much smaller scale. Still, it’s probably better to just risk a trip to Clicks.

The hand sanitiser will be used by Stellenbosch students and staff as the campus has not shut down completely during the lockdown. Check out the full interview and story over at Times Select for a more in-depth look at how the hand sanitiser was produced.


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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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