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How The EU Tackles Food Waste

100 million tons of food are wasted in the European Union per year. This horrendous amount would be enough to feed the hungry people on the Earth two times! Overall, the food wasted is not only an ethical or economic issue, but also bad for our natural limited resources. Therefore, the EU implemented several actions that help to reduce the amount of food wasted. But before we take a look at the EU’s actions against food waste it is important to understand where and what kind of food is wasted:

General information

In total, about ¾ of the European food waste is plant based, while the rest is animal based. Alltogether, vegetables (24%) and fruits (22%), followed by cereals (12%) and meat (11%) contribute to the largest amounts of food waste.
The below figure shows the concrete amount of food waste that is generated during the different stages of the EU food supply chain. Surprisingly, with a share of 46%, most food waste occurs during the consumption stage. Whereas primary production (25%) and Processing and manufacturing (23,6%) are each responsible for approximately a quarter of the generated food waste. That leaves only 5,1% that are wasted during the distribution and retail stage.

EU food waste in stages of the supply chain

Source: Brief on food waste in the European Union – Food waste in the different stages of the food supply chain, p. 5 (https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/jrcsh/files/kcb-food_waste_brief_print_hq.pdf)

Which European country generates the most food waste?

With 14.3 million tons of food waste per year, the UK is by far the most wasteful European country. The remaining four top positions belong to Germany (10.3 million tons), the Netherlands (9.4 million), France (9 million) and Poland (8.9 million). In contrary, Malta wastes the least amount of food with approximately 25,000 tons per year.

And how does the EU plan to minimize food waste?

In 2015 the member states of the EU developed the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. It aims to reduce the capita food waste on consumer and retail level by 50% until 2030. This goal is mainly based on the developed food waste hierarchy, which is demonstrated in the below graphic. This hierarchy helps to prioritize and rank waste management strategies. Firstly, the focus should be on the prevention of food waste, followed by the reuse for human consumption as well as for animal food. The three least preferable options to deal with food waste are recycling, energy recovery and finally disposal. Basically, everyone within the food chain has the aim to reduce and prevent food waste.

EU food waste hierachy

Source: Brief on food waste in the European Union – Food Waste Hierachy, p. 8 (https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/jrcsh/files/kcb-food_waste_brief_print_hq.pdf)

Another key element to achieve this goal is the so called “Farm to Fork” strategy, which aims to prevent food waste and loss throughout the whole food value chain. Since this strategy improves food waste management, it should enable the EU to save more food for human consumption while saving money at the same time. Furthermore, this strategy supports the protection of the environment by lowering the impact of food production and consumption.

Additionally, the EU also established the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste in 2016. Within this platform, EU institutions, experts from EU countries and selected stakeholders are able to share their practices and processes with others and thereby prevent and reduce food waste more efficiently.

From 2015 until 2019 the European Union similarly conducted a research project called REFRESH (Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain). With the help of this project the EU plans to reduce its overall food waste by 30% until 2025. But it also intends to improve the overall valorization of food resources as well as the overall sustainable development in Europe. To do so, the 26 research partners from 12 European countries formulated strategic agreements. These should helpt governments, businesses as well as individual consumers to reduce their amount of food waste. Additionally, the researchers developed some technological solutions that enable companies to achieve more sustainable food processing.

Since you know that the end consumers are responsible for most overall food waste, it’s now your time to get active and help to fight against food waste within the EU! And keep in mind, there are many different ways how you can contribute to it! For example, you could start to lower your amount of wasted food through composting or by buying only the groceries you really need. Just have a look at our other blogposts  to find out about the different opportunities!

 

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