Italy close to food waste law
The new legislation, which now has to pass through the Italian parliament’s other legislative house, the Senate, has received cross-party support. It seeks to make it easier for retailers to donate unsold food to local community groups and projects.
According to Maurizio Martina, Italy’s Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, food waste costs the Italian economy €12 billion (£9.4 billion) each year. A statement after last week’s vote said that, every year, 550,000 tonnes of food is recovered and distributed to those in need. The bill, he hopes, will see this figure almost double to one million tonnes by the end of 2016.
Unlike the French law, which in February introduced fines of up to €75,000 (£54,000) for supermarkets that do not sign up to agreements to redistribute their unused food, the Italian law will take a different approach, reducing the administrative burden on food donations and offering cuts in taxes proportionate to the amount of food redistributed.
At present, red tape inhibits food stores from donating excess product as each donation must be declared in advance. Should the law be agreed by the Senate, retailers will only have to complete one monthly form setting out all donations made.
Under the terms of the bill, public authorities, as well as not-for-profit organisations, will be eligible to receive donations from supermarkets. Food that has been mislabelled will also be available for donation, providing the irregularities do not affect the expiry date of the product or an indication of substances that cause allergies and intolerances.
The law will be complemented by the introduction of food education in schools and a widespread awareness campaign, while €1 million (£780,000) a year will be provided to aid the development of food packaging over the next three years.
The bill passed on Thursday with 277 votes in favour, none against and 106 abstentions.
Commenting on the positive vote, Martina said: “Today’s vote confirms the that Italy is at the forefront in the fight against food waste. It is an intervention necessary to counter a phenomenon that in Italy alone is worth €12 billion a year. A country with zero waste is a country with conscious consumers, a country that makes good practice into daily habits and does not make exceptions.
“We have done a lot so far… every year we recover 550 thousand tonnes of surplus food and distribute them to those in need. But we aim to do more and better. Our goal is to bring this fact to one million tonnes by 2016. This is also one of the legacies of Expo Milano 2015 and the Milan Charter. We can be the generation zero hunger. The moment has come. We all must do our part.”
News of the Italian law being voted through parliament came in the same week as the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) announced the next stage of its Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement to reduce waste and improve resource use.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 challenges signatories from the food and drink industry to reduce food and drink waste by 20 per cent in the next 10 years, alongside emissions and water impact targets.
This voluntary action is considered by the government to be sufficient in addressing food waste created by supermarkets and the retail sector.
Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy has been trying since September to introduce a Food Waste (Reduction) law based on the French legislation. Despite being granted a second reading in January, however, McCarthy’s bill has not been reached in parliamentary proceedings and earlier this month was postponed for a second time.
McCarthy has said that she does not expect the bill to proceed any further.
The bill, which has been drafted by MPs across different political parties, would introduce a food waste reduction target of 30 per cent by 2025 and would require supermarkets to donate unsold food that is still fit for consumption to redistribution organisations.
According to the FareShare, one such charity, if 25 per cent of the UK’s surplus food was redistributed to charities it would save the voluntary sector up to £250 million per year.