EU Commission takes aim at food waste


The EU Commission wants to step up its efforts in the fight against food waste with a series of new waste prevention measures and targets. By 2030, the EU member states are to cut the amount of food waste generated in retail and consumption stages by 30 per cent per capita. The target would apply to waste generated in stores, but also in restaurants and households. The volume of waste produced during the production and processing of food is to be reduced by 10 per cent. The targets are part of the proposals for a revision Waste Framework Directive presented by the Commission in Brussels last week. The scope of the revision is limited, targeting only waste textiles and food waste.

The EU and EU member countries are committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Global (SDG) target of halving food waste per capita at retail and consumer level by 2030 and reducing food losses along the production and supply chain. To achieve goal, reduction targets of 30 per cent have been set for the retail, catering and household sectors, and 10 per cent for the manufacturing and processing sectors.

The results of the first EU-wide monitoring of food waste, which covered the year 2020 are to serve as the baseline, Eurostat estimated that 53 per cent of food waste generated in the EU arises in households, 7 per cent at wholesale and retail, and 9 per cent in restaurants and food services. Other sectors contributing to food waste in the EU are primary production (11 per cent) and food processing and manufacturing (20 per cent).

The Commission's proposal aims to "ensure sufficient and consistent response by all member states to reduce food waste along the food chain and in households." The proposal's food waste measures are intended to encourage member states to take ambitious actions and support behavioural change as well as to strengthen cooperation between actors across the whole food value chain and other relevant players, such as academia, NGOs and financial institutions.

The experience of front-runner countries coupled with EU supporting measures intended to facilitate sharing of learning and best practice will help drive progress across member states, the Commission hopes. Among the examples of best practice, Brussels specifically names Netherlands, France and Germany. These three countries have already set up national food waste prevention strategies and established governance mechanisms to bring all actors together and to steer and coordinate their efforts towards clear and shared food waste reduction objectives - for example through voluntary agreements, the Commission noted.

According to the Commission, almost 59 million tonnes of food waste are produced in the EU every year. This corresponds to around 130 kilograms per capita and a total estimated value of €132bn. At 53 per cent, more than half of the waste is generated in households, followed by 20 per cent in the processing and production sector. Food production generates 11 per cent of waste, 9 per cent is generated in restaurants and catering services, such as school and company canteens or hospitals, and the remaining 7 per cent is generated in the wholesale and retail sectors.

Around 10 per cent of all food delivered to retailers, restaurants, caterers and households in the EU ends up in the waste stream. With greenhouse gas emissions of 252 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, food waste has a significant impact on the environment. "If food waste were a member state, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the EU," said European Commission’s Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the presentation of the proposal.

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