Italy’s Senate has approved a Bill to battle the country’s food waste and hunger. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people. Italy alone wastes 5.1 million tons of food annually, which cost Italians US$15 billion every year. To prevent such economic and environmental damage, the Bill aims to cut one million tons of food waste each year over the next five years. The Law is a result of the 2015 Universal Expo in Milan, whose theme was “feed the planet, food for life” and focused on sustainability and biotechnology. The legislation aims to incentivize restaurants and markets to donate excess food to the needy. It has been heralded by Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina as one of the “most beautiful and concrete heritages” of the Expo.
The changes were favored by a majority in the Senate, but the Bill was not approved without issues. The new law attempts to tackle food waste in the face of challenges surrounding treatment plants, leaving waste unprocessed. Currently, Italian municipalities encourage their citizens to compost and recycle. In Rome, households are provided compost bins, a starter pack of biodegradable bags, and waste pickup. Italy stresses that the cost of organic waste left uncollected is a higher expense to the environment, nation’s cleanliness, and well-being. While Italy is proud of its compost and recycling initiatives, the country still strives to improve where it lacks. According to Renewable Matter, an international magazine on the bioeconomy, “organic waste is the main component of all urban waste collected in Italy.” However, most waste does not reach treatment plants that are sparse in Italy. Instead, waste intended for compost is destined for a landfill. Italian political leadership aims to avoid this error by repurposing organic waste to feed the hungry. The Bill urges restaurants, supermarkets, and other businesses to donate their food waste to the needy through incentives such as tax breaks. With the Bill in its early stages of implementation, only time can truly tell its success in creating substantial change.