The European Commission remains unresponsive to the problem of food waste
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has just published a report on how the EU is tackling food waste, and the conclusion hasn't been positive. The ECA considers that the European Commission is not doing much to combat this global problem; actually, its ambition it's believed to have dicreased over time.
The Commission, says the ECA, lacks coordination and a common definition for food waste. Besides, its policies should mainly focus on prevention, with measures to reduce overproduction, rather than dealing with the problem once it's already occurred. Finally, the ECA recommends to clarify some legal provisions that may be confusing and discourage food donation.
According to this report published by FUSIONS EU, around 88 million tonnes of food are dumped every year across the 28 member states. The document does point that this figures include both edible and inedible parts and that, in average, every person in the EU wastes 173kg of food annually. This figure, the report concludes, equates the 20% of the total food production.The latest ranking by Eurostat, which dates back to 2006, shows that UK is the country with highest levels of food waste annually (14.4 million tonnes). Then goes Germany (10.3 million tonnes), Holland (9.4 million tonnes), France (9 million tonnes), Poland (8.9 million tonnes), Italy (8.8 million tonnes) and Spain in the seventh position with 7.7 million tonnes.
In the latter, Spain, the relevant institutions not only don't have data to measure the problem* and tackle it, but there are also legal provisions discouraging citizens to take advantage of such food waste. In Madrid, for example, a regional provision sets fines up to 750 euros for those who are caught collecting goods (food among them) from bins, while thousands of people starve. This video, which I made back in 2012, explains and gives sense of the situation then and there.
CITIZENS TAKE OVER
Given that governments, parliaments and European institutions seem to not be taking ownership of this problem, private initiatives are emerging to fight against food waste and all its dimensions.
Continuing with the case of Spain, we find Yo No Desperdicio, a platform that brings people with food surpluses into contact with other that are looking for something to eat. It is a sharing system that covers a social and environmental service through solidarity. They also have a list on their web with similar initiatives in Spain, and they have even launched an app to facilitate communications.
In the UK, a successful initiative committed to wiping out food waste is that of The Real Junk Food Project, of which we have already talked in other post.
France is the only country in Europe and in the world that has taken drastic actions to cope with food waste. Since 2016, it is illegal for supermarkets to throw away food unsold and nearly expired. Instead, they now must donate it to charity or compost it. This measure was first proposed and promoted by Paris local councillor Arash Derambarsh, and approved by both the National Assembly and the Senate. We will need to wait to find out how this law affects France's food waste numbers.
In the meantime, Derambarsh, precursor of this campaign, wants to convince European countries and the rest of the world to follow France's example and ban food waste.
*This report by the Spanish Minister of Agriculture admits that they "do not currently know the exact size of the overall problem in Spain". On the other hand, the report by FUSIONS EU shows how Spain and other countries have been unable to provide quality data about food waste to be analysed and used for the report.