Food waste has always been a topic of controversy globally. It is estimated that each year more than 1.3 million tons of food go to waste. Of these, a large part comes mainly from supermarkets in the developed world. On the contrary, at the opposite pole but on the same planet, other human beings die of malnutrition and hunger.
Although there has been a struggle to decrease the numbers of food wasted, the results of studies show that there is still a significant annual loss. In this sense, the main criticism is against the large distributors. These, many times, lose an important part of their merchandise instead of donating it to those most in need.
For this reason, a few years ago, in France, Arash Derambarsh proposed the initiative to create a new law. Their goal was simple: to stop supermarkets from throwing away food they don’t sell.
Arash’s idea suggests that instead of wasting, donations be made to charities and food banks. Subsequently, these organizations would be the ones to distribute them to those who need them.
Thus, a massive campaign was organized supported by activists and supporters from all over the country. The result was that the French Senate passed a law in 2016 that will benefit thousands of poor people.
France, the first country in the world to apply this law
The French Senate decision made France the first country in the world to prohibit supermarkets from wasting or destroying food. Thus, establishments of more than 400 square meters will have the obligation to sign donation contracts with charities. Failure to do so will result in a fine of € 75,000 or two years in prison.
The news has cheered charity promoters. They assure that this will help them increase the quality and diversity of the food they receive. In fact, Jacques Bailet, head of the French food bank network, expressed that he hopes the measure will serve to increase the donation of fruits, vegetables and meats, foods that tend to be donated less.
Those responsible for collecting and storing these foods will be banks and charities, which hope to increase their staff to make more effective handling of the new influx of food. Indeed, most will be delivered to community kitchens and appropriate centers, rather than being distributed on the streets.
The law will also punish supermarkets for spoiling meals on purpose. Unfortunately, it is a practice that has increased in many establishments in order to prevent the poorest from rummaging in their containers.
And it is that, unfortunately, in recent years the number of people looking in the garbage for products that are still suitable for consumption has increased, thrown away just because their best before date is close.
However, it is not just about establishments. In many places, they spray the food that is thrown with bleach to, according to them, avoid food poisoning for those who rummage through the garbage …
The Next Challenges for Charities
With this first achievement, charities prepare to meet new challenges.
First, they will need to find more volunteers willing to help with food handling and distribution. In addition, they will also need more trucks, warehouses and refrigerators to meet the increase in donations.
However, the main objective will be to persuade the EU to consider a similar measure in the other Member States.
There is much to do
Food waste in France corresponds to 11% to shops, 67% to consumers and 15% to restaurants. Therefore, the promoters of this initiative are aware that there is still much to do. The new law is just one step – albeit an important one – towards a more conscious and sustainable society.
Indeed, for example, with just a 15% increase in donations from supermarkets, an additional 10 million plates of food will be delivered per year to those most in need.
The long-term dream is that many countries in the world adopt laws like this to reduce waste. However, the main objective is to give the opportunity to eat to those who need it, with dignity, without having to go through the garbage.
Images courtesy of Tooykrub