Should the UK Follow the French and Ban Supermarket Food Waste to Landfill?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In May 2015 it was announced that France would be implementing a ban to stop supermarkets in the country from disposing surplus food to landfill.

The ban is part of wider laws devised by France’s National Assembly to help the country reduce waste, and to specifically halve food waste by 2025.  The laws will force supermarket chains to donate food waste, which would have otherwise been disposed to landfill, to charity for human consumption, or to turn it into animal feed, compost or energy.

Under the new laws, all supermarket stores that exceed 400 square metres must sign a contract with a charity to donate edible, unsold food.

Since the announcement, there have been calls in other European countries to implement similar schemes, legislatively driven or otherwise.  In early June 2015 Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, announced it was trialling its own scheme to see any unsold food donated to charities instead of being treated as waste.  This follows the release of figures by Tesco that showed 54,000 tonnes of food were wasted within their operations last year, of which around 30,000 tonnes were fit for human consumption.

In the UK, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) issued an Opinion Poll on the subject which saw 79% of respondents vote in favour of the UK Government following the French example and banning supermarkets’ surplus food from landfill.

The Poll also found that only 10% of respondents were not in favour of such a ban, with the remaining 11% believing there were “better ways of reducing food waste”.

The United Nations estimates that around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or roughly 30% of global production, is lost or wasted each year.  This significant amount of food could easily feed the world’s 800 million hungry.    

A Rabobank report also recently found that the European Food & Agribusiness (F&A) industry is currently losing 60 billion Euros each year through food that is wasted in the supply chain and never reaches the consumer, further emphasising the urgency of addressing the food waste issue. 

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