‘EU waste framework directive’ and food waste, BEUC’s proposals

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EU waste framework directive

The European consumer organization BEUC recommends reviewing some points of the proposal for the revision of the ‘EU Waste Framework Directive’ – presented by the European Commission on 5 July 2023 to the European Parliament and the Council – with the aim of reducing food loss and food waste. (1)

‘EU waste framework directive’, food loss and food waste

The proposed revision of the ‘EU Waste Framework Directive’, as we have seen, includes new rules and objectives for the reduction of food loss and waste (FLW). (2) By 2030, Member States should indeed reduce food waste – compared to 2020 or a previous year, provided they can provide reliable data on this – as follows:

  • ‘food loss’, i.e. the losses that occur in the processing and production phases, -10%,
  • ‘food waste’, i.e. waste that occurs in retail and consumption (domestic, restaurant etc), -30% per capita.

The Commission will have to re-evaluate these objectives by 2027, based on the results achieved by Member States in reducing food losses and waste.

Measures that cannot be postponed

Addressing the phenomenon of FLW is an urgent matter that cannot be postponed. The uncertain estimates developed so far indicate that in 2020 the total ‘food loss’ and ‘food waste’ in the EU could have reached 59 million tonnes (131 kg/inhabitant), broken down as follows:

– families, in the context of domestic consumption (53%),

– agri-food processing and production (20%),

– primary production (11%),

– restaurants and other catering services (9%),

– retail outlets and other food distribution sectors (7%).

BEUC’s requests

‘If on the one hand, consumers have a role to play in reducing food waste, on the other hand all actors in the supply chain – including farmers, producers and distributors – must assume their full responsibility in the fight against food waste. 

Setting goals food waste reduction obligations, ‘from farm to fork’, can contribute to this objective‘ says BEUC. Which therefore indicates to the European Commission the following recommendations, to improve the proposal for the revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive.

1 – Improve objectives

The ‘targets’ of food waste reduction measures proposed in the EU are insufficient to reach the United Nations goal of halving per capita food waste and reducing food losses in supply chains, globally, by 2030.

2 – Include agricultural companies

The goals of food waste reduction should be applied throughout the entire supply chain, ‘from farm to fork’. We therefore hope for the adoption of an objective for the reduction of food waste on agricultural holdings which includes unharvested crops, for example due to poor economic profitability, which could remain excluded from the monitoring and reporting obligations of the Member States, since they are not fall within the current notion of ‘food waste’.

This concept is well expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in UN Agenda 2030.’Reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses’ (target No 12.3).

3 – Distinguish between edible and non-edible food waste

It is necessary to distinguish between edible and non-edible food waste, according to BEUC, at least at household level. In fact, the more consumers prepare food starting from agricultural raw materials, the greater will be the quantity of food ‘waste’ which however concerns inedible parts of fruit and vegetables (e.g. stems, peels, seeds, etc.).

4 – ‘Date marking’

Over half of the food waste (53%) takes place at a domestic level. One of the causes of food waste by consumers is the lack of understanding of the difference between the expiry date (use by) and the minimum shelf life (best before).

The ‘date marking’, furthermore, is often difficult to find on the packaging. ‘Precisely because of the reform introduced by the Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/11, which eliminated the requirement to position the ‘date marking’ in the same visual field as the ‘product name’ and quantity‘, explains our lawyer Dario Dongo.

BEUC therefore urges the European Commission to present as soon as possible its proposal for the revision of the EU rules on food labelling, already expected by last December 2022.

5 – Involve consumer organizations

Consumer organizations can play a key role in raising awareness and informing consumers about food waste. This role could be better recognized and reflected in the proposal, including access to funding for activities that help combat food waste.

Food waste, a defeat for everyone

It is worth remembering that food waste represents a defeat in every respect. In fact it:

– it harms the environment and the climate, because it leads to useless greenhouse gas emissions (estimated at 16% of those deriving from the food system) and the dispersion of precious resources, such as water,

– it is immoral. According to Eurostat, food waste created by households, restaurants and retailers represents 10% of the total food supply in the EU. At the same time, around 32,6 million people can only enjoy a quality meal every two days,

– it is uneconomical. According to the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission, by reducing food waste, families could save on average 220-720 euros per year. This could also help mitigate food prices (for example, the price of vegetables could fall by up to 4%, while that of fruit could fall by 2%).

#wasteless

Marta Strinati

Footnotes

(1) REDUCING FOOD WASTE IN THE EU. BEUC’s position on the proposal for a revision of the Waste Framework Directive setting binding food waste reduction targets. https://www.beuc.eu/sites/default/files/publications/BEUC-X-2023-118_Reducing_Food-Waste_in_the_EU.pdf

(2) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Food loss and waste, proposal for revision of the framework directive on waste in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".