Will the EU move to ban food waste from supermarkets?

Published by David Hayden on

January 19, 2017

[x_columnize]France’s world-first ban on supermarket food-waste has set a new standard for the regulation of food waste. In 2016, France became the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, punishing them with fines of upto €75,000 if they refuse to donate it to food banks or charities. The pioneering legislation came to fruition after a long and vigorous grassroots campaign. Activists were vindicated when the French parliament passed into law a ruling that makes it illegal for supermarkets to destroy or throw away food that is still fit for human consumption. The law also makes it easier for food producers to donate surplus food. Reducing food waste is a key concept in sustainable living. Each product has a carbon footprint and when that product goes to waste, so do all the carbon emissions which took it from manufacturing or farming to the supermarket shelf. The volume of waste can be astounding and the law will likely have a very great impact on hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which keeps tabs on what’s grown and eaten around the globe, estimates 1/3 of the world’s food is lost between the farm and the plate due to waste. Squandering food also squanders the vast quantities of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce it. According to National Geographic: “In 2007 a collective 3.5 billion acres of land, an area significantly larger than Canada, was plowed to grow food—or to support livestock and dairy production—that no one would eat. To compound the environmental insult, food buried in the airless confines of dumps generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest generator of greenhouse gases in the world behind China and the United States.” The drive to create public awareness of the food waste issue both as a humanitarian cause and an environmental cause has been given a great boost by the global media coverage of the French law. The campagin originated with French councillor Arash Derambarsh who spoke of his days as a law student left with only €400 a month to live on after paying his rent. He was obliged to eat primarly pasta and potato dishes and often went hungry while trying to study for his examinations. Derambarsh stated that he was accused of being naive and idealistic when he began his grassroots campaign. Acting as a municipal councillor in Courbevoie France, Derambarsh was able to persuade French MP’s to adopt the regulation after he obtained more than 200,000 signatures on a change.org petition and some additional help from celebrity endorsements in just four months. The effort snowballed and gained support from Environmental NGO’s and humanitarians. Derambarsh is now eager for the the European Union to legislate on the issue.

[x_image type=”none” float=”none” src=”https://greennews.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/arash-derambarsh.jpeg” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”] Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP

It appears that people don’t approve of food waste and they were looking for leadership on the issue. In the UK, founder of Feedback (an NGO devoted to ending food waste) Tristram Stuart has supported this legislation and hopes to see similar laws adopted across the globe, in the UK he setup a grassroots group called Feeding the 5000 which collects high-quality produce from farms and packers that has been rejected by supermarkets and cooks it into elaborate lunches served to 5,000 lucky diners, for free, in the name of raising awareness and celebrating creative solutions.VOICE Ireland has taken the concept of Feeding the 5,000 down to the local level by creating ‘Food Rescue’, where local communities work with their local shops and individuals to make a neighbourhood meal out of food that would have been thrown away along with other educational activities.

[x_image type=”none” float=”none” src=”https://greennews.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/logo.png” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]

[x_button shape=”square” size=”regular” float=”none” href=”http://voiceireland.org/our-work/food-waste/” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Learn about VOICE Ireland Food Rescue[/x_button] [/x_columnize]

The European Parliament will vote this month on EU food-waste targets for 2030

The European Parliament will vote this month to decide whether to halve Europe’s food waste by 2030, and if EU countries should be legally obliged to comply with this target. If passed into law, this could be the most ambitious agreement on food waste in history. According to Stuart, there are large scale opportunities here to move towards a circular economy, reducing cost and waste by adopting laws on food waste. Stuart recently launched the Pig Idea, which is pressing the EU government to lift its ban on feeding food waste to swine, enacted following a 2001 British outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease linked with pigs eating uncooked scraps. Stuart argues that collecting and sterilizing commercial food waste would lower feed costs for farmers, protect vast swaths of tropical forests from being cleared to grow soy for swine meal, and save businesses the cost of food waste disposal. Feeding livestock on the food we currently waste, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, would globally liberate enough cereals to feed three billion people. The arguments in favour of such laws are grounded in strong evidence of benefit for humanitarian and sustainability/circular economy goals.

Euro-rush towards food-waste regulation?

Italy followed suit half a year after France. with its own food waste laws by making it easier for food producers to donate foods that have been mislabelled or are past their sell-by date as long as they are still fit for human consumption. According to Tristram Stuart’s change.org petition “Many people struggle to even feed their families and yet every supermarket in Europe throws away an average of more than 40kg of unsold food every day!”

Sign the Petition

[x_columnize]If you feel strongly about food-waste, humanitarian causes and the progression towards a circular economy you should add your name to this petition to stop food waste in the EU. This petition is part of a European campaign working with the NGOs Action against Hunger and the French Red Cross.

[x_button shape=”square” size=”regular” float=”none” href=”https://www.change.org/p/frans-timmermans-stop-food-waste-in-europe-stopfoodwaste” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Stop food waste in Europe #StopFoodWaste[/x_button]

It will be delivered to : President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz Vice-President o the European Commission, Responsibility for the strategy on a circular economy Frans Timmermans President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker If you’re interested in learning more about food waste issues in the Irish context Zero Waste Ireland has a blogged about the issue:

[x_image type=”none” float=”none” src=”https://greennews.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/ZWAI-Logo-300×169.png” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]

[x_button shape=”square” size=”regular” float=”none” href=”http://zerowasteireland.com/scandal-food-waste-ireland/” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]The scandal of Food Waste in Ireland – Eco Eye view[/x_button]


Duncan Stewart, Chair of the Green Foundation Ireland devoted an episode of Eco-Eye (series 11, episode 6) to food waste in Ireland.[/x_columnize]

[x_video_embed type=”16:9″] [/x_video_embed]

[x_author title=”About the Author”]

Related Post
Last chance to amend weak climate bill

Friends of the Earth, An Taisce, and Stop Climate Chaos lead the charge to amend the Climate Bill before it Read more

European TV station are looking for Irish people to produce a short video on climate change to air in France and Germany

TV channel ARTE are looking for Irish people to take part in a programme which will air during the COP21 Read more

The Environmental Pillar rejects eco-label given to an Irish salmon farm

The Environmental Pillar wishes to make clear to consumers and public that it rejects the awarding of an environmental certificate Read more

Calls to shorten the hedge cutting and gorse burning ban has no basis in science, say An Taisce

The environmental and heritage group are rejecting calls from the Irish Farming Association to shorten the hedge cutting times. An Read more

David Hayden

David is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Bachelor's Degree in International Business and French from UCD as well as a Master's Degrees in French literature and New Media from the University of California at San Diego and the Johns Hopkins University.