Canada's Condominium Magazine
Anyone who has ever been bothered by the vast quantities of food that are wasted every year will be pleased that France has done something about it. A new law, passed unanimously by France’s parliament, makes it illegal for supermarkets and grocery stores to destroy waste food that is still edible. Stores will have to sign contracts with charity organizations which will take the unsold food. Food that is no longer deemed edible by humans must be used for pet food or compost. Non-compliance will result in hefty fines. It will also no longer be legal for stores to pour bleach on food in dumpsters to prevent people from eating it, a practice that one French politician called “scandalous.”
The law has an undeniable feel-good quality to it, but that is misleading, say some. French supermarkets, for example, say that they are not the main source of food waste. According to them, they account for just 5–10 per cent of the 1.3 million tonnes of food wasted each year. It’s consumers and restaurants, they argue, who are the big-time wasters, accounting for 67 per cent and 15 per cent of the waste, respectively.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for a group that represents dumpster divers in France said that the new anti-waste law could create the impression that a “magic solution” had been found for the problem of wastage and overproduction in the food industry.
Despite such criticisms, the man who got more than 211,000 signatures on a petition to change the law would like to see countries worldwide adopt similar laws. Arash Derambarsh, who represents a Paris commune in the legislature, is working with the group ONE, founded by U2’s Bono. He plans to take the issue of food wastage to the United Nations this year, as well as to the G20 summit in Turkey in November.
Canadians big wasters too
In Canada the value of food wasted each year is estimated to be $31 billion, though some feel it is much higher than that. Most waste here, as in France and other countries, occurs at the household level. Canadian consumers reportedly waste an estimated $1,000 of food per household each year. The amount of food wasted by Canadians has been compared to one full bag of groceries out of every four purchased.
Laws like the one in British Columbia that make it illegal to throw food waste in the garbage rather than in green boxes would help deal with the problem at the household level. Toronto also has a mandatory Green Bin program for those who receive curbside collection. The city is also working to introduce green bin collection to apartment and condo buildings. The organic waste collected is processed into compost for agricultural use, diverted from landfill. According to the City of Toronto, 50 per cent of household garbage, by weight, is organic.
Reducing the amount of food we throw away requires a certain change of attitude, as well as a bit of planning. If everyone avoided over-shopping and bought only what we needed for a few days at a time, fewer perishables would end up thrown out. Inevitably, large-scale changes in consumer behaviour would have an impact on the food distribution chain.