Retailers call for 'smart legislation' on food waste

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Food waste, European union, Waste management

European retailers have welcomed a draft EU report on food waste, reiterating its calls for for "smart legislation" that incentivises action to prevent food waste in the supply chain.

Croatian Socialist and Democrat MEP Biljana Borzan's draft report on food waste​ ​was endorsed by the European Parliament's environment and food safety committee (ENVI) this week.

Borzan calls on the member states to create economic incentives for limiting food waste and wants to see the Commission propose a change in the Value Added Tax (VAT) Directive that would explicitly authorise tax exemptions on food donations.

In many member states, it is more expensive to donate surplus food than to send it for anaerobic digestion, she notes.

EU legislation should also establish a hierarchy for the management of unsold food.

Director-general of Eurocommerce, the association that represents the interests of Europe’s retailers, Christian Verschueren welcomed the report's findings. “It is a scandal, both environmentally and socially, that wholesome food goes to waste. We call upon the EU and national governments to look carefully at their rules and help address the obstacles holding us all back from exploiting the potential for moving closer to eliminating food waste.”

Last year France’s food waste law,​ which requires supermarkets to donate all unsold food to charity for either human or animal consumption, came into effect. A similar food waste law in Italy,​ however, takes a different approach. Under its law, businesses are not subject to previous fines for donating marginally out-of-date food, and will actually pay less tax on waste the more they give away.

Verschueren said incentivising measures – such as changes in the VAT directive to grant tax exemptions for retailers donating unsold food to charities – were an example of “smart legislation​”.

Obliging retailers to give away unsold food will not solve the problem, may create additional bureaucracy and “discourage the positive energy​” of efforts already being made, he told FoodNavigator.

Eurocommerce recently published a report​ which details best practice examples of its members regarding cutting food waste.

Under its ‘Whole tree’ scheme, Spanish retailer Mercadona, for instance, has pledged to buy all of a supplier’s fruit and vegetable crop, even if not all of it meets the retailer’s requirements for appearance. These vegetables are used by other Mercadona suppliers to make soup, jams, sauces and juices.

In 2015, Belgian supermarket Delhaize started a partnership with the Brussels Beer Project to use its unsold bread to produce local beer, which was then sold in Delhaize Brussels stores.

Waste package legislation

Meanwhile on Tuesday, members of the committee for the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) amended the EU’s draft waste package legislation​ and said the share of waste that is recycled should increase to 70% by 2030 as well as pushing for a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030.

Around 89 million tonnes of food are estimated to be wasted in the EU each year – equivalent to 180 kg per person each year.

Rapporteur Simona Bonafè’s four proposals will now go before a full parliamentary vote at a Strasbourg plenary session in March.

There are huge differences in waste management between member states. In 2014 northern member states Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent virtually no municipal waste to landfill whereas other countries – Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Latvia and Malta – sent more than 75% of their municipal to landfill sites.

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