Food waste and loss have a clear environmental, social and economic impact on our planet. One should just consider the amount of natural resources, time and money which are invested in food production, as well as the negative impact which food waste itself has on our environment when it starts to decompose. Statistics show that Europe is wasting roughly 20% of all food it produces, while 800 million people worldwide are undernourished according to the United Nations.
In 2020, the European Commission released its Farm2Fork strategy which compliments the EU Green Deal and aims to make Europe’s food systems more environmentally sustainable and healthier for consumers. The strategy includes scope for the creation of an EU-wide target for food waste reduction.
Several different options for legally binding targets have now been presented in the proposed revision to Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
The Commission has proposed a two step approach. The first step is to consider what parts of the food supply chain they will address and how waste is to be measured. In its most ambitious form, the new policy would set a target on the entire chain from the farms where food is produced, to the final consumer’s plate, setting the same reduction target for all EU member states. A softer option is to tackle only certain parts of the supply chain (e.g. retail or consumers), and only setting a collective EU target, with member states offering their individual contributions.
The next step is to actually decide on what the target will be. The most ambitious option presented by the Commission is to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. This would put the EU in-line with its commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (target 12.3) On the other hand, the bare minimum is proposed at a 15% reduction.
While the proposal will set binding targets on the EU, each member state will still be flexible in how to achieve these. Options include awareness raising, behavioural change, engaging with food suppliers and producers, and so on.
The Commission argues that reducing food waste will lead to cost savings for both businesses and consumers. While some businesses will have to introduce technologies or systems to reduce waste in their kitchens, the savings from less waste are expected to outweigh them.