Every year, food waste is estimated at over 16 billion euros in Europe (according to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition). This scourge affects local authorities, distributors, producers and even restaurateurs. France is striving to limit food losses by 2025, but what about other European countries? Zoom in on our neighbors’ anti-waste practices!
State of play: Which country is the most wasteful in Europe?
At the top of the list, the UK wastes the most in Europe (according to WRAP, a British charity). This (inglorious) place on the podium is due, in part, to British households, which are responsible for 70% of the country’s total food waste. In the land of the crown, more than a quarter of Europe’s food losses are wasted in a single year, i.e. 4.5 million tonnes of food worth 11.7 billion euros.
How do the Swiss, Italians and Belgians combat food waste?
Switzerland throws away around 2.8 million tonnes of food every year. According to figures from the Federal Office for the Environment, France is one of the countries that wastes the most food. According to these findings, one in three foodstuffs is thrown away in Switzerland, at every stage of the food production chain, right up to the moment it reaches the plate.
These losses are generated by a wide range of players : restaurants, wholesalers, retailers and households. One particular issue caught the eye of the Federal Council’s journal, pointing the finger at wholesale and discount meat sales. This encourages consumers to buy in bulk and waste more.
In Switzerland, to limit excessive food waste, the government is taking action, and measures have already been put in place: declaration of food shelf life, donation of unsold food, and so on. The main players in the retail, processing and catering industries have also introduced voluntary measures.
Each sector must set specific targets. They will also set up a campaign to raise awareness of food waste among consumers and employees. The government aims to halve food waste by 2030. A 25% reduction is already envisaged for 2025.
Every year, 5 million tons of food are lost in Italy. The fight against food waste is a top priority for Italians, whether in the home, in restaurants or in supermarkets. The government has introduced a law that will make it easier for farmers, manufacturers and retailers to donate food. Similarly, they will benefit from tax breaks if they donate their leftovers and surplus food ready to be thrown away unnecessarily, to charitable organizations.
Thanks to this law, the Italian government hopes to save 1 million tons of food per year. To limit losses, a number of schemes have also been set up, such as the Babacó Market. This initiative consists of organizing deliveries of fruit and vegetables from the local market to combat waste. Households receive parcels in front of their doors, boxes of fruit and vegetables still fit for consumption.
Belgium is the second most wasteful country in Europe. According to Too Good To Go figures, the average Belgian throws away 345 kg of food a year. What’s more, a survey by iVox reveals that waste garbage cans are filled with leftovers from meals, untouched vegetables and bread.
To tackle food waste, retailers and citizens are using the Too Good to Go app, which enables them to network and communicate on anti-waste techniques. Nearly 1,373,000 users are now connected to the app, exchanging ideas on how to reduce waste. These applications enable retailers to inform customers who wish to pick up unsold goods at low prices. The contents of the baskets vary according to the products that the retailer can no longer offer for sale. These can include daily specials, sandwiches, fruit, etc.
Food waste generates around 25,960 tonnes of CO2 in Europe, which is why a company created in Denmark and certified BCorp (socially and ecologically responsible), serves as an example in Belgium and acts to show good practices and gestures to limit food waste. This initiative enables 4 million packed lunches to be made every year in Belgium.
Across the Channel: what are our British neighbors doing to limit food waste?
In the UK, the fight against food waste is a crucial economic issue. Indeed, it is the country most affected by food waste among our European neighbors. Measures are being taken to reduce waste, such as supermarkets removing use-by dates from fresh produce.
This measure is designed to encourage customers to behave more responsibly. This measure applies to around 500 products in British supermarkets. This date causes consumers to be reluctant to eat food that is still good.
The “Best before” label will be removed, especially on fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables. According to statistics, over 4.5 million tonnes of food are thrown away by Britons. Removing this date will help limit food waste in British households. Consumers will also have to use their judgment to check whether a food is still edible.
British restaurants have taken the decision to slash the prices of their dishes an hour before closing time. England throws away around 15 million tonnes of food every year (according to figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization).
Food waste in Europe is responsible for a significant release of CO2 into the environment. France is a pioneer in anti-waste practices, and has also set targets for a massive reduction in losses within 5 years. Other European countries have also begun to introduce their own programs to combat food waste. The question then arises as to who will be the best pupil and achieve its objectives of mass reduction in unnecessary food waste by 2025.
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⏭️ Also read: Encouraging children to reduce food waste: tips and tricks.