The law on food waste explained in 5 questions

The fight against waste is about to enter the law. On the night of Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 December, MEPs unanimously adopted a series of measures to combat food waste. The proposed law, presented by the Mayenne MP Guillaume Garot (PS), former Minister Delegate for agribusiness, and co-signed by more than 300 deputies from all sides, has obtained the approval of the entire left, of UDI and Republicans. It should be presented to the Senate in early 2016, with a view to final adoption. Explanation, in five questions, of this phenomenon which has a high economic and environmental cost.

  • What does the proposed law contain?

The text includes provisions to prevent supermarkets from disposing of food and rendering unsold goods unfit for consumption. These measures were introduced in the Energy Transition Law but censored by the Constitutional Council for procedural reasons. However, for his rapporteur, Guillaume Garot, his “aim is much broader”. It establishes a hierarchy of actions to be implemented by each actor in the food chain to avoid throwing food: prevention of waste, then donation or transformation for human consumption, recovery for animal feed then, and finally compost for agriculture or energy recovery.

It is now forbidden for large and medium sized areas of more than 400 m² to throw away unsold food that is still consumable. In the year following its promulgation, the law requires businesses to sign an agreement with one or more associations “specifying the conditions under which the foodstuffs are ceded to them free of charge”. Distributors are also prohibited from “deliberately rendering their unsold food supplies unsuitable for consumption”, for example by bleaching them, on pain of a fine of 3,750 euros with “posting or dissemination of the decision”.

Agri-food manufacturers can now donate rejected private label products. Today, a range of products refused, because it arrives one hour late or a pack is mislabeled, must necessarily be destroyed even though the sanitary quality of products is not questioned. Each year, some 4,000 tons of private label milk products (or “private label”), or more than 30 million yogurt pots, are destroyed.

The fight against food waste will also become part of food education during school. And companies will be able to register their actions against waste in their report Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSR).

  • What is the extent of food waste in the world and in France?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one-third of the edible portion of food for human consumption is lost or wasted around the world. This represents 1.3 billion tonnes per year, or more than 160 kg per year per inhabitant. The direct cost of these 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted amounts to $ 1 trillion ($ 143 per person).

In France between 90 and 140 kg of food per inhabitant are lost each year on the whole chain, from production to consumption. Each Frenchman throws himself in the trash between 20 and 30 kg of food, including 7 still packed. Either a loss estimated between 12 and 20 billion euros per year.

  • Who is wasting the most?

According to the FAO, 54% of global food waste is produced during production, handling and storage. And for 46% at the stages of processing, distribution and consumption.

In developing countries, losses occur mainly during production, transport and storage, due to a lack of adequate and adequate tools and infrastructure. On the other hand, in rich countries, most of the waste is consumed. In Europe and the United States, the consumer is primarily responsible for food waste. According to a 2010 study by the European Commission, households are responsible for 42% of food waste in Europe, with food industry (39%), restaurants and other food services (14%). %) and trade and distribution (5%).

According to a 2013 FAO assessment, food waste is responsible for the release of 3.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases per year. It is the equivalent of the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the United States. The food produced and not consumed occupies 1.4 billion hectares of land (nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land) and engulfs annually 250 km3 of water, the annual flow of the Volga River in Russia or three times the lake Geneva.

The more food is lost late in the chain, the higher the environmental impact, says the FAO report, because environmental costs during processing, transportation, storage and preparation must be added to initial costs of production.

  • Why have we fallen behind to solve this problem?

If associations, companies, communities and citizens have been taking action against waste for years, the retail and distribution sector, in particular, has always been hostile to a legislative framework that it considers “useless” and ” source of new constraints “.

The subject has been on the table of Europe for several years, but progress on the legislative front is slow. In 2012, the European Parliament called on the Commission to take urgent measures to halve food waste by 2025. This call was taken into account by Brussels in the circular economy package proposed in 2014. However, this package, which table on a waste reduction target of 30% by 2025, was withdrawn by the European Commission last January. It is expected to be reintroduced before the end of 2015.

In France, in June 2013, Guillaume Garot, then minister delegate for agribusiness, took again the objective of the European Parliament to halve food waste by 2025 and launched a national pact against the food waste. Aimed at 11 measures to trigger a dynamic among retailers, manufacturers, associations and consumers, this pact has raised awareness on this topic in society.

Two years later, in April 2015, the same Guillaume Garot, once again deputy, called, in a report given to the ministers of agriculture and ecology, the adoption of a law on food waste, judging that “good will is not enough”. Several provisions proposed by the MNA for the Mayenne to prevent supermarkets from throwing food and making unsold products unsuitable for consumption were introduced into the Energy Transition Law and received unanimous approval from MPs and MPs. senators. But the Constitutional Council censured them on 13 August, ruling that they were the result of amendments introduced during the second reading of the law, without any direct link to it.

In the meantime, the Minister of Ecology, Ségolène Royal, invited at the end of August, not without difficulty, retailers signs to sign a “voluntary commitment agreement for the fight against food waste” taking over the measures that appeared in the energy transition law. It was without counting on the persistence of Guillaume Garot, who, supported by a large part of the deputies of all edges, deposited in November a proposition of law.

With this text that allows to “build a legal framework against waste”, “France will become the most voluntarist country in Europe in this area,” said Guillaume Garot.

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