EU Circular Economy Package Doesn’t go far Enough on Food Waste
The European Commission’s Circular Economy package announced today falls short in the measures it proposes to tackle food waste; despite the European Commission’s earlier indication that the new package was going to be stronger and further reaching than its predecessor.
Food production is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, species extinction, and deforestation – yet one third of all that production and its impacts goes to waste. In spite of this, national targets to reduce food waste by 30% between 2017 and 2025 proposed in the earlier package have been dropped.
To tackle the staggering level of global food waste, action must be taken. Feedback recommended not only maintaining the EC’s targets, but broadening them to include food waste on farms. The FAO estimates that nearly two thirds of Europe’s food waste occurs between production and retail levels, and only one third at consumer level. Yet the new EC package lets the food industry completely off the hook for their two thirds by refocussing the EC’s calls around the Sustainable Development Goals, which only have specific targets to reduce retail and consumer waste.
Policy recommendations proposed by Feedback during the EC’s public consultation on the circular economy included:
– Empower agencies to crack down on unfair trading practises by retailers, which create upstream food waste. The UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator has demonstrated the effectiveness of using economy-friendly competition law to simultaneously reduce failures in the market and food waste.
– Incentivise and remove barriers to redistribution of surplus food;
– Redress perverse financial incentives that encourage the use of food waste for biogas production when options higher in the food waste hierarchy, such as feeding people or livestock, would be the better environmental option.
– Remove or relax regulations on cosmetic standards on fruit and vegetables which contributes to food waste both in Europe and beyond.
– Review legislative barriers to safely use food waste as livestock feed to improve Europe’s food security, reduce costs to farmers and create jobs in the “Eco-feed” industry livestock;
Never before has there been such a unified and massive public mandate to act against food waste. Over one million people have signed Feedback’s Avaaz petition calling for national leaders to launch national action plans to prevent waste, including passing laws obliging supermarkets publish their waste data, and to establish authorities to investigate supermarkets’ unfair treatment of suppliers that lead to waste. Over 700,000 people have signed the Change.org petition, sponsored by Feedback in the UK, calling for the European Commission to require big supermarkets to donate food to charities rather than destroy perfectly good food as part of the Circular Economy Strategy.
There is strong political support for action to prevent food waste as well, most notably demonstrated by the Green Card issued earlier this year by Lord Boswell and signed by 16 member states, calling on the Commission to “adopt a strategic approach to the reduction of food waste within the EU” within the Circular Economy package.
The EC has effectively ignored its own recommendations from commissioned research from 2010 which suggested that ‘Food waste data reporting requirements’ was in the top three recommendations for reducing EU food waste. Removing food waste reduction targets is a regressive move. Furthermore, it presents a missed opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of the Commission’s €9 million funding of the Resource Efficient Food and Drink for Entire Supply Chain initiative (REFRESH) earlier this year. REFRESH, of which Feedback is a core partner, is a consortium of organisations working to find solutions to Europe’s food waste issue that would lead to a more circular economy with the aim of contributing to the reduction of food waste by 30% by 2025.
The EC’s lack of ambition is all the more disappointing in view of the tide of public support for measures to tackle food waste and positive signs of government action within the EU at national level. Governments in Belgium, France, Spain and UK have taken forthright steps to tackle this problem through legislation, showing that national efforts are slowly being realised. With several years of concerted, collaborative effort, the UK is on track to beat the Sustainable Development Goal adopted by the UN in September of halving food waste by 2030. Each member state should set itself such a target, and the EC should be leading the charge. Organisations involved in bringing about change, such as WRAP and Feedback, are willing to put all the know-how built up over several years at the disposal of governments to help other countries halve their food waste even faster than the UK. Feedback pledges to open source all its knowledge – to give away its’ intellectual property to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Feedback believe together swift transformation can be achieved.
The EU still has a chance to show it has significance in the global fight against food waste. The draft package on the circular economy is not up to the job. Feedback look to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to strengthen it.
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