Huge food waste: €88 million tonnes of food goes to landfill every year in the EU

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Huge food waste: €88 million tonnes of food goes to landfill every year in the EU

Food waste costs around €143 billion. to the European economy every year and is responsible for 15% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the supply chain. There is no time to lose, as we have less than 10 years to reverse the current situation. Greece needs to take immediate action and stop showing unjustified inaction.

Food production has emerged as one of the biggest threats to the environment today, contributing among other things to the climate crisis. By 2030, food loss and waste should be reduced by 50%, according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But the European Union needs to take significant steps to achieve this, as its progress has so far been slow, according to a joint report by WWF and UK-based WRAP.

It is now imperative that we change the way we produce, distribute and consume food. It is a problem with environmental, economic and social implications. Important habitats are destroyed for food production, putting thousands o At the same time, while 112 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, it is estimated that on average each person in the EU throws away 173 kg of food per year. Recognising the importance of sustainable food production, the UN has designated 29 September as International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day.

The WWF and WRAP report, entitled “Halving food loss and waste in the EU by 2030”, assesses past and current actions to reduce waste across the supply chain, highlights good practices and calls for immediate implementation of measures in the EU. As highlighted in the study, although changes in the regulatory framework have been made in recent years, they need to be accompanied by further actions to effectively accelerate the reduction of food waste. To this end, the report highlights the following three pillars on which EU Member States should focus:

  • Measuring waste: Measuring food waste is one of the most effective actions to reduce food loss and wastage, as it helps to identify and prioritise the causes of the problem, facilitating the design of interventions and monitoring progress. A European Directive (2018/851) has established the obligation for all Member States to carry out measurements in a consistent and common method, while the first pan-European measurement at national level is planned for 2020.
  • Utilisation of food residues: another very important measure is to provide financial support for research and innovation on the safe and efficient use of food residues for processed food, feed, chemicals or other materials.
  • A stricter regulatory framework: Additional regulation in the form of legislation is recommended to make it mandatory to prevent food waste in specific sectors (e.g. retail or hospitality), to prevent unfair commercial practices leading to waste at farm level or to make waste measurement mandatory for all large food businesses. Indeed, the new EU strategy “From Farm to Plate” is expected to encourage further action in this direction by Member States over the next decade.
Huge food waste: €88 million tonnes of food goes to landfill every year in the EU image 1
Information graph – Food waste in numbers

Unjustified inaction by Greece

Although Greece has been experiencing an economic and social crisis for years, with a significant number of citizens plagued by food insecurity, the legislative initiatives that the country has undertaken so far to reduce food waste (e.g. the VAT exemption for food donations under Law 4238/2014) are minimal and insufficient. At the same time, Greece does not yet have data on the amount of waste or the qualitative composition of food waste, while the new National Waste Management Plan (NWMP), published in August, makes no mention whatsoever of waste reduction actions. On the contrary, according to the ECHR, it is estimated that Greece will not see a decrease until 2030.

But inaction cannot be an option. In this context, WWF Hellas has proposed to the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MEE) the immediate adoption of the following measures:

  • Goal setting: When transposing the relevant European directive, a specific target for reducing food waste – namely a 50% reduction along the production and supply chain by 2030 – should be set.
  • Measuring and quantifying the amount of waste: Although ELSTAT has included in its planning the preparation of a measurement of waste, care must be taken to ensure its timely implementation by the end of 2020, so that the current situation can be captured on the basis of the significant findings.
  • Introduction of mandatory food waste registration in food handling and marketing businesses.
  • Provide incentives to enhance food donation, through the development of financial instruments and the clarification of criminal liability in the donation process.
  • Immediate development of an action plan to prevent food losses, including sectoral measures. Among other things, it is proposed to carry out research to identify the causes of waste and find solutions, to legislate for simple and common labelling rules to facilitate consumers, to change marketing standards to reduce the amount of ineligible fruit and vegetables for aesthetic reasons, and to promote action on short products so that they can be made available to consumers at lower prices.

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