The European Union (EU) has adopted the first ever EU-wide food waste reduction target.
The agreed goal calls for a 30 percent reduction of food waste per capita by 2025 and a 50 percent reduction by 2030. This vote has been welcomed as a huge victory by members of the European Parliament, as the result of a very long and disputed negotiation process between the different EU Member States.
With the adoption of this new legislation, EU Member States are expected to develop national plans to achieve these targets and are required to report food waste levels on a yearly basis, beginning in 2020. Under the new agreement, states must also develop incentives for the collection of unsold food products and encourage the redistribution of food that is still safe for human consumption. Finally, states are also encouraged to boost awareness campaigns to educate consumers about the meaning of “best before” and the “use by” labels. All of these new initiatives are expected to collectively pave the way towards stronger food waste prevention.
Plans to adopt policy measures to address the issue of food waste across the EU, which wastes 88 million tonnes of food each year, have been on the agenda for a long time. NGOs across Europe played an important role throughout the negotiations, campaigning for the adoption of ambitious legislative amendments that would lead Europe to comply with Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which states: “by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.” Through Change.org the campaign gathered nearly 60 thousand signatures, while more than 31 thousand people supported the same initiative through Global Citizen.
Martin Bowman from ThisIsRubbish who has been leading the food waste campaign in Europe, commends the vote as a landmark decision for the food waste fight in Europe, but also expressed “disappointment that this target is not binding for Member States, and that the target implies 50 percent reduction is only required for retail and consumer food waste, when up to 59 percent of Europe’s food waste occurs before the retail stage.”
Although the EU has passed a target in line with the 50 percent ambition of SDG target 12.3, the indicative nature of the target means that states will not be held accountable or face penalties for not meeting the objective. The target also fails to address waste across the entire supply chain.
On the other hand, the requirement to report annual food waste levels is being welcomed by stakeholders involved in the negotiations as a significant step forward that addresses one of the central issue of the food waste debate in Europe, which is the huge discrepancy between the different Member State’s ability and willingness to regulate and collect data on the food being wasted nationally. As stated by EU’s Health and Food Safety Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis “measurement is the very foundation of the food waste prevention strategy. If we measure, we can achieve something,”