A resolution passed at the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg designated 2014 as the “European Year Against Food Waste.” With the resolution came a lofty goal: cut food waste in half by 2025, with help from awareness campaigns and other initiatives.
The goal may be lofty, but the research cited by the Parliament suggests it’s appropriate: Up to 50 percent of edible and healthy foods are wasted in EU households, supermarkets, restaurants and other points along the food supply chain each year, while 79 million EU citizens live beneath the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions.
Perhaps most surprising, the EU’s food waste numbers are not exceptional – the world as a whole wastes about one-third of food produced — or about 1.3 billion tons each year, according to a study commissioned by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The study was carried out at the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, and further estimated that in Europe and North America, 620 to 660 pounds of food per person are wasted each year.
For its part, the European Parliament resolution calls for:
- Better education to avoid excessive waste – among other initiatives, member states should introduce school and college courses explaining how to store, cook and dispose of food;
- Proper labeling and packaging – dual-date labeling could be introduced with both sell-by dates and use-by dates;
- Favoring of responsible caterers by public institutions – contracts for catering should be awarded to companies that use local produce and give away leftover food rather than throwing it away.
According The New York Times, the Sustainable Restaurant Association, based in London, began a campaign last autumn to reduce waste. Specifically, the organization encourages restaurants to waste less food in the kitchen, after a recent survey of 10 London restaurants found that they wasted about half a kilogram of food per customer, per meal. About 65 percent of the waste stemmed from kitchen practices like throwing away vegetable peels. But patrons accounted for about 30 percent of the waste; some were too embarrassed to request to-go boxes, partly a function of “natural British reserve.”
Meanwhile, technology is helping – Marks & Spencer has introduced a new packaging strip aimed at making strawberries shipped in from overseas last two days longer. Eventually, the company hopes to use the technology on all types of berries. And its Plan A: Doing The Right Thing site offers helpful quizzes that allow users to assess their waste and then provides tips for cutting back.
How about some solidarity with the European plan? I, for one, have none of the “British reserve” that prevents me from taking home a doggy bag. Plus, I usually have a day or two before a shopping trip where I find a way to creatively combine any items left in the fridge. Have you identified something you can personally do to cut out waste? What do you think of the EU’s resolution?