france food waste 2

Today is World Hunger Day, when we are all encouraged to celebrate sustainable solutions to ending extreme hunger and poverty and highlight the positive actions taken by those existing on less than £1 ($1.50) per day, to end their own hunger.

When you consider that a third of all food produced, equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes, is spoiled or squandered before it can be consumed by people, it’s hard to look beyond food waste as a huge opportunity and potential source of a solution to hunger.

SRA Members have been innovating and creating a terrific range of initiatives to keep their food waste to a minimum for some time now – brilliantly exemplified by all the brilliant FoodSave participants.

This week, it’s time to hail another hero; a Frenchman who, horrified that supermarkets were throwing out perfectly good food, while thousands of French people are going hungry, decided to act.

Arash Derambarsh, a local councillor, described the current situation as “scandalous and absurd” and after gaining more than 200,000 signatures for his petition, persuaded French MPs to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. The new regulations, passed last week, will compel the retailers to donate food to charities or for animal feed.

The law will also introduce an education programme about food waste for schools and businesses. Businesses will have to sign contracts with charities by July next year or face tough penalties – fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.

The retail sector is said to be responsible for 11% of France’s 7.1m tonnes of food waste. Not surprisingly, the large retailers responded by saying that they were only responsible for a small part of the problem and were already significant food donors.

Derambarsh told the Guardian that he’s not content with changing the law in France and wants to take the campaign global. “Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence,” he said.

The French law goes considerably further than the UK, where there is a voluntary agreement with the grocery and retail sector to cut both food and packaging waste in the supply chain. In Scotland, restaurants are prohibited from sending food waste to landfill and there are moves (about which we shall be reporting shortly) to make it easier for restaurants to donate food.

And of course there are organisations, like The Real Junk Food Project, running cafes and restaurants serving only food that would otherwise have been wasted – from a huge range of sources, including from major retailers.

If you’d like to see UK supermarkets subject to the same regime, sign the petition organised by campaign group 38 Degrees – which already has almost 130,000 signatures.

This is further strong evidence of how strongly food waste resonates as an issue. More than half a million people shared the Guardian’s original report of the story too.