From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published January 19, 2012 09:25 AM

European Commission Aims to Cut Food Waste 50 Percent by 2020

Europe may be facing much larger problem than what to do with its food waste. But being pushed through the European parliament is a bill that will have widespread significance. That is because food waste accounts for one of the largest sources of overall waste going to landfills. Per year, the average person throws away 300 kg (660 lbs) per year, and of this, two thirds is still edible. MEPs are railing against what they see as unsustainable levels of waste. The resolution being passed through parliament is set to be approved today.


According to MEP, Salvatore Caronna (Socialists and Democrats, Italy), the European Commission should not delay in developing a sustainable food waste strategy.

"For the first time a European institution is raising the point and it is going to goad the other institutions to act as well," said Caronna, the parliamentary rapporteur for the resolution. "Now the ball is in the Commission's court and the Commission is going to have to very swifty come up with replies."

The majority of food waste comes from food manufacturing and processing industries. Households and restaurants waste less, and supermarkets are the most efficient, according to a report by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The goal is to cut food waste in half through various means. To do so will have to address the long cycle of food, from farm to fork. Cutting down on food processing is most important because it is the single largest source. To do so, the EU will encourage small and medium scale farming which is geared toward local demand.

On the other end, the EU is calling for a reform of expiration dates on food products. For example, some MEPs want to simplify this by eliminating dates for "best by", "sell by," "use by" and instead have a single less-confusing date. However, this would likely face resistance from consumer groups and picky shoppers, worried about health risks.

A more effective strategy would be to encourage composting of food scraps. To this end, some MEPs are suggesting setting targets to eliminate landfilling of food scraps by 2020. Currently, food scraps and other biological waste accounts for 40% of what is going in landfills.

The elimination of food waste in landfills is an ambitious goal, but morally necessary, argue some officials. They point to starving nations like Ethiopia, and how Italy's food waste alone could solve that country’s hunger crisis.

The plan to cut food wastes in Europe will be complex and involve all levels of the food industry. Officials like Graham Watson (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, UK) is calling on all players in the food supply chain to get on board to help come up with guidelines to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

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Image credit: EU Commission

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