The European Union is currently wasting 88 million tons of food each year (Fusions 2016). The European Commission and Parliament are therefore now leading the way in directing Member States towards a circular, zero waste economy, with many countries setting ambitious goals in halving food waste along the supply chain until 2030.
Ever since 2012, the EU has actively pursued a resolution on how to reduce food waste across its Member States (European Parliament, 2012). Food waste prevention is an integral part of the Commission's new Circular Economy Package (European Parliament, 2015) to drive Europe's transition towards a circular economy. It is therefore “looking for every opportunity to prevent food waste and strengthen sustainability of the food system”.
"We want to support the fight against climate change (…), save nutritious food for redistribution to those in need (…), as well as save money for farmers, companies and households"
The EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste was established in 2016, with the aim of supporting all parties, in defining measures needed to prevent food waste, sharing best practices, and evaluating progress made over time amongst various stakeholders (European Commission, 2019). The Revised EU Waste Legislation (adopted on 30 May 2018 by co-legislators) is a directive that calls on the EU countries to take action to reduce food waste at each stage of the food supply chain, monitor food waste levels and report back regarding progress made (European Parliament, 2018). The legislation also encourages food donation and other redistribution for human consumption, prioritizing human use over animal feed and reprocessing into non-food products. In addition to that, the EU is now encouraging countries to use a unified methodology in measuring food waste across the supply chain (European Commission, 2019).
To prompt further action amongst members, EU Fusions was established to work towards a more resource-efficient Europe (EU Fusions, 2019). They provided recommendations and guidelines for a common European food waste policy framework, which mandated that high level political statements need to be translated into sufficient action through impactful initiatives and legislation (EU Fusion, 2016). However, mandatory targets and concrete implementation measures have yet to be put in place and therefore, the European Court of Auditors, in its most recent report, reiterated that actions to date have not been sufficient and the EU strategy on food waste has to be strengthened and better coordinated (European Court of Auditors, 2016).
For many years, France pushed its lawmakers to take action (Assemblée Nationale, 2015) on the issue of food loss and waste through various proposed policies (NRDC, 2015). In February 2016, it became the first country in the world to pass a legislation that prohibits supermarkets from throwing away unused food.
"The law has not settled everything (…) but it now has to go further, such as in education and raising awareness for the fight on food waste"
Since then, supermarkets (measuring over 400 square meters) are required to sign an agreement with one or more organizations to redistribute their unsold produce, in order not to face penalties of up to €75,000 (Legifrance, 2016). The legislators are now planning to further extend the law to schools, canteens and other entities (Franceinfo, 2019). The new legislation has in many ways been a success story. 98% of all supermarkets concerned now donate their unsold produce, with perishable items such as dairy, fruit and vegetables making up the greatest share of the 10 million+ meals distributed ever since (Le Parisien, 2019). Additionally, retailers now pay closer attention when re-valuing their produce through actions (IPSOS, 2018) such as stock management, in-store product offerings, date labelling, and new potential collaborations (LSA, 2018). Particular focus also has to be put on the quality of the products that the store donates, the logistical issues at hand on how produce is shifted to charities, as well as the issue of ‘gaspi-washing’ in which the responsibility to discard produce, not eligible for donations, is shifted to the donee (Agra, 2019; Actu Environnement, 2018).
In order to feed the estimated 10 million people living in relative poverty in Italy, new national legislation (Interreg, 2019) was signed to incentivize businesses to donate their unsold produce and provide ‘family bags’ for unfinished meals in restaurants (The Local, 2016). Overall, the aim of the legislation is to promote the recovery and donation of surplus food for charitable purposes, firstly for human consumption, secondly for animal consumption, and finally for composting (Zero Waste Europe, 2016).
"We are making it more convenient for companies to donate than to waste"
On a city level, Milan leads the way with their comprehensive Food Policy guidelines, which have the aim of reducing surplus and food waste during the different stages of the food chain, to help prevent social, environmental and economic inequalities (Comune Milano, 2015). In doing so, it a) reduces the tax on waste by 20%, in favour of those food businesses (supermarkets, restaurants, canteens, producers etc.) that donate their food losses to charities and b) encourages school canteens to partner with a food bank. Furthermore, The Mayor of Milan decided to launch an international protocol aimed at tackling food-related issues at the urban level through the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFP, 2019). A project named ‘Milano Recycle City' was initiated to promote best practices and to communicate about collection to the citizens and other stakeholders (Comune Milano, 2015).
In February 2019, the German government released its national strategy on food waste, communicating their goal of halving food waste at all stages of the chain by 2030 (BMEL, 2019). Several federal states have since started their own programs and initiatives in the fight against food waste (WWF, 2018).
"We have included all players along the supply chain on this discussion, as food waste occurs everywhere"
The current policy document in force is the waste prevention programme of the Federal Government with the participation of the Federal States (BMU, 2013). It includes voluntary measures targeted at the prevention of waste in Germany, including food waste. To further mobilise the public, the government launched the 'Zu Gut für die Tonne' (Too Good for the Bin) (BMEL, 2019) and 'Lebensmittel wertschätzen' (Value Food) (BMEL, 2019) programmes.
Did you know that Too Good To Go won the 2019 National Prize 'Zu Gut für die Tonne?' See more here.
In its ‘Denmark without Waste’ strategy, the Danish Government set out its goal of recycling 50% of its household waste by 2022 (The Danish Government, 2015; The Danish Government, 2013). Included within this is reducing all avoidable food waste at all levels of the supply chain.
"When we waste food, we waste money, and we waste resources. Reducing wasteful practices simply makes good sense, from the business perspective as well as from an environmental perspective"
Several initiatives to reduce avoidable food waste have also been carried out in recent years, with the most notable centered around the 'Stop Spild Af Mad' ('Stop Wasting Food') movement that helped reduce food waste by 25% from 2010-2015 (UNRIC, 2015).
In 2012, a campaign by AECOC was launched with the objective of spreading good practices, encouraging collaboration amongst stakeholders, and raising public awareness (Alimentacion sin Desperdicio, 2019). In five years, Spain has reduced food waste by 30%, while the number of donations of products has increased by 13%.
"The fight against food waste must be a national goal which has to be achieved by the whole society. We should all be concerned and working towards it, because of its environmental, social, economical and sustainable consequences."
The national strategy 'Mas alimento, menos desperdicio' (More food, less waste) was launched with the “aim to encourage transparency, dialogue and coordination between food chain agents and public administrations and to develop in an organised, coordinated and structured way, common actions that drive real change in the attitudes, work procedures and management systems of agents in the chain" (MAPA, 2013). Today, Spain is working through the new stage of the strategy (MAPA, 2017) by putting forth a formula similar to the one adopted in Italy, granting tax incentives and regulatory concessions (D+I & AMO, 2018), as well as establishing a 'Food Waste Observatory'.
In Galicia, the government is working on the law 'Ley gallega de residuos y suelos contaminados' (Galician Law about waste and contaminated soils), that will further push the agenda of prevention and reutilisation against food waste. Additionally, the government set forth a Galician Strategic Plan for Urban Waste Management, further showing that the region is committed to fight food waste locally (Xunta de Galicia, 2019). In Castilla-La Mancha, a regional decree will promote an official seal that will distinguish companies or producers that voluntarily contribute in fighting against food waste. While in Catalonia, the government has pushed forward a new 'Plan of Action Against Food Waste' (ARC, 2018). Other great news? Too Good To Go Spain has now been accepted as an active member of the Catalan Strategic Committee against food waste.
In the UK, many efforts have tailored targets on reducing household food waste on a national level. The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) campaign ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ has recorded a 17% reduction (WRAP, 2015) in avoidable household waste in 2015 compared to 2007. Through the new Courtauld Commitment 2025, WRAP will work with signatories to investigate the potential of new ways to help millions of people reduce household food waste.
"Food waste is an economic, environmental and moral scandal"
The government has set out plans to overhaul the waste system in England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland to further encourage a circular economy and in order to reach a vision to eradicate food waste from landfill by the end of 2020 (Vision2020, 2019). Most recently, Ben Elliot was appointed to the one-year voluntary role of Food Surplus and Waste Champion by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to set forth further actions.
Local initiatives have encouraged collaboration and dialogue amongst various governmental and industry stakeholders to mobilise efforts and educate the public (BLW, 2019; Foodwaste.ch, 2019). So far plans have been put forward to develop a green economy in the country (BAFU, 2019).
"Our waste mentality leads to an unnecessary demand of scarce resources such as soil, water, and fossil fuels"
In March 2019, a resolution was adopted to reduce food waste by 50% within 2030. The Federal Council will now prepare an action plan to reach that goal and then present it to the Swiss Parliament (Le Temps, 2019).
Since 2015, Belgium has set forth various initiatives and targets on a regional and city level. Brussels holds an important stand point in EU politics and the city has now set its local strategy ‘Good Food’ in motion, to reduce food waste by 30% until 2020.
"Walloon households throw away between 14 and 23 kilograms per capita, which represents an annual financial loss estimated at 174 euros per year"
Wallonia launched the plan ‘Regal’ with the goal of reducing food waste by 30% across the food supply chain between 2015-2025 (One Planet Network, 2019). At the start of 2015, the Flemish region developed a program of actions to reduce food waste across the chain by 15% until 2020, through 57 actions (Vlaanderen, 2015).
The Dutch government has openly committed to support social organisations, businesses and knowledge institutions to reduce food waste by 50% within households, companies and the food service industry until 2030 (Rijksoverheid, 2018).
"Less waste would also allow a significant reduction in CO2 emissions while saving money. In short, it would be good for the environment as well as the finances"
In January 2017, The Dutch Taskforce, a coalition of companies across the full food supply chain, national and local authorities, was launched in collaboration with the initiative Samen tegen Voedselverspilling (“Together against food waste”) (Champions 12.3, 2019). Different organizations and institutions jointly work to arrive at innovative solutions to prevent and reduce food waste throughout the food chain (Nederland Voedselland, 2018). The goal is to contribute to the prevention and reduction of food waste, and for the Netherlands to become an international frontrunner in the valorisation of agri-food residual streams (Wageningen University & Research, 2019). In the upcoming 4 years a budget of 7 million euros will be released by the government to reach this ambition (Rijksoverheid, 2018).
In 2013, the National Waste Management and Prevention Plan “From Waste To Resources” was introduced (EU Fusions, 2016). Across the country, a wide range of initiatives, R&D projects, and actions have since then been kickstarted.
"Our agreement is breaking new ground and we are setting ambitious goals of reduction"
Norway managed to decrease the amount of food waste by 13% from 2015-2017 and has further set its ambitions on reducing it by half by 2030 (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2017) by encouraging companies to join a voluntary industry agreement (Matvett, 2019).
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