Food waste is not only bad for the environment, but it is also extremely expensive, and socially unacceptable. Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and the economic cost of this wastage is the equivalent of USD 1 trillion per year.
There is a clear need for a wide range of organisations to work together to significantly reduce food waste across the entire supply chain. Government intervention can help accelerate the process. Policies, laws and regulation can enforce change so that all sectors operate to a minimum standard making it easier to reduce food waste.
Fortunately, many countries have been implementing new policies, creating campaigns and putting together projects aiming at reducing food wastage on a national level. We’ve collected some government initiatives on the issue from around the world:
- Australia: Earlier this year Australia showed that it is a forward-thinking country and its national government is seriously committed to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In May, Australia was the first country to set a target to reduce the amount of food waste it generates by 50% by 2030.
In Australia, the financial cost of food waste is 20 billion dollars annually. In order to support the country’s food waste reduction target, the Australian national Government decided to invest 1.2 million dollars over two years, to support food rescue organizations. The decision is part of its Food Rescue Charities Program, and it will support 4 of Australia’s main organisations: Second Bite, FareShare, OzHarvest, and Food Bank Australia.
- Norway: Norway followed the Australian example and also set a 50% food waste reduction target. In June of 2017, the Norwegian Government and the country’s food industry signed an agreement to reduce food waste in Norway by 50 percent by 2030. The agreement was established to support the UN’s sustainable development target to halve food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.
In Norway, 350,000 tons of food end up in the bin every year. Food waste in the food supply chain equals 68 kg per person per year. But the good news is that many measures have already been implemented to prevent food waste. The supermarkets, for example, have reduced the price of food nearing its sell-by date, and are providing smaller loaves of bread to prevent waste.
During an interview with a local news website, Vidar Helgesen, the Norwegian Minister for climate and environment, reassured the importance of Government and industry leaders coming together to drive change to reduce food waste: “I would like to challenge the food industry to be innovative and creative in the coming years. The food industry's actions will be the deciding factor in halving food waste by 2030”
- Denmark: The Danish Government is a pioneer in joining the fight against food waste. In June of last year, the Danish minister for food, Esben Lunde Larsen, launched a subsidy scheme to combat food waste. A subsidy pool worth almost US $750,000 has been distributed to projects trying to tackle waste throughout the food chain, from production to consumption.
It was a significant commitment, but the subsidy scheme wasn't the Danish food ministry’s first drive to reduce food waste. Previously, the ministry had already conducted campaigns to educate consumers about best-before and use-by labels. In Denmark, as long as expired food is clearly labelled and shows no sign of health risk, it’s legal to sell. Mr Larsen has also supported collaboration between food producers and kitchens so that “wonky vegetables”, which would otherwise be rejected, are used.
- France: Food waste is a huge and costly issue in France. According to the French Agency for the Environment and Energy (ADEME), every year 10 million tons of food is either lost or wasted in the country, costing the French 16 billion euros per year. The negative impact on the environment is also shocking. In France, food waste emits 15.3 million tons of CO2, which represents 3% of the country’s total CO2 emissions.
Although these figures raise concern, the French government is determined to drive change and in the past 5 years has created new laws and regulations to encourage food waste reduction. In 2012, they launched a new law to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfill. It is now required by the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, and Sustainable Development that the private sector to recycle their organic waste if they produce more than 120 tons of it per year. Failure to comply with the legislation could result in fines of up to €75,000.
Since then, this regulation has been developed further. Now, recycling is mandatory for all businesses, including those in the hospitality and foodservice industry, that produce at least 10 tons of organic waste per year.
Last year, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, it forces them to donate surplus food to charities and food banks. According to the French regulation, large supermarkets are no longer allowed to throw away good quality food approaching its “best-before” date.
- South Korea: South Korea has proved proven that change can happen when government policies are applied. Once among Asia’s biggest food wasters, South Korea has managed to reduce food waste in amounts other parts of the world can only imagine accomplishing for now.
In Seoul alone, the volume of waste decreased by 10%, or more than 300 tons a day, in comparison to four years ago. The results started to appear in 2013 when a new policy was implemented in Seoul, and now covers 16 more cities around the country. The policy requires that households must pay bills according to the amount of food they waste, which is then processed for recycling.
- Dubai: The UAE has the largest number of Food & Beverage outlets per capita in the world. Dubai alone has about 9189 food outlets available in every. Unfortunately, along with so much food comes waste.
Food waste costs Dubai the equivalent of $4 billion every year. It is the same as 2.7 kg of food waste being produced every day, per individual. However, the Government of Dubai is determined to reverse these figures.
The Dubai Municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Winnow Solutions, to encourage the use of technology to reduce food waste across the hospitality sector in the UAE. The initiative is part of the Dubai Municipality's efforts to cut 75% of their waste. Winnow’s technology has been helping large hotels in the UAE save more than $35,000 per annum in food costs. This reduction in food waste has translated into a saving of an estimated 33 tons of food rom landfill and an equivalent of 231 meals saved each day in Dubai.
At Winnow, we see food waste as a major issue and we are on a mission to reduce it on a global level. We are now present in more than 25 countries, and we are trusted by some of the worlds most respected brands, such as Ikea, Accor Hotels and Compass Group.
It is extremely positive to see food waste increasingly gaining priority in the international political agenda. We encourage world leaders to focus on preventing food waste in the first place in order to minimize the problem on a national level.
Is your country creating laws to encourage food waste reduction at a national level? Would you like to see a greater effort from your national Government? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.