EP gives green light to food waste targets

Members of the European Parliament voted on the Waste Framework Directive to raise legally binding food waste reduction targets to 20% for processing and manufacturing, and 40% for retail, restaurants, and households.

The Prevent Waste Coalition on food waste remarked that setting the first EU-wide food waste reduction targets confirms political commitment to tackle the environmental and social impacts of food waste. However, the result is at odds with the European Parliament’s previous commitments to slash food waste by 50% from farm to fork; a commitment expressed in the EU Green Deal and UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Coalition is part of a wider group of 65 organisations from 22 countries that signed a joint statement calling EU policymakers to support the 50% reduction target.

Theresa Mörsen, Waste & Resources Policy Officer, Zero Waste Europe, states: “Almost 10 years ago, the EU and its Member States committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including 50% reduction of food waste across the entire supply chain as outlined by SDG 12.3, but now that the proposal is on the table, decision-makers shy away from decisive action. This is happening against the backdrop of recent reports by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change that warn against the huge impact food waste has on climate change.”

Christophe Diercxsens, Global Public Affairs Director, Too Good To Go, underlines: “Although the European Parliament’s vote today moves us in the right direction, the adopted targets are significantly lower than the EU’s prior commitment to UN SDG 12.3. Ambitious legally binding food waste reduction targets are essential to bring all countries and all food businesses on board in the fight against food waste, not just a few.”

The targets do not apply equally to all steps of the food supply chain. Both the Commission proposal and the Parliament position set a far lower target for manufacturing and processing, and completely omit taking action against food losses and waste at farm level. With evidence from Kellogg’s showing that fast reductions are possible in the processing sector, this unequal treatment is not justified. Moreover, Eurostat data shows that at least 11% of food is lost at primary production level. Meanwhile, the majority of food loss has been excluded from the EU measurement of food waste. This urgently needs to be rectified, as current best estimates suggest that up to 90 million tonnes – 60% of EU food waste – could occur on farms.

Antonio De Carluccio, Policy & Project Officer, Safe Food Advocacy Europe, states: “It is inconsistent and unfair for processing and manufacturing to be assigned far lower targets than other sectors, especially given the ample evidence that manufacturers are equally capable of food waste reduction. We therefore recommend that the targets for the manufacturing sector be raised to match those of other sectors. This adjustment ensures that manufacturers contribute equitably to the EU’s efforts to combat food waste. That being said, we saw a strong political statement by some groups today who lent their support to a 50% target, signalling a promising alignment with SDG 12.3.”

Frank Mechielsen, Director, Feedback EU, points out: “Excluding primary production from binding food waste targets is harmful not only to sustainability efforts, but also to farmers. This will only increase the likelihood that food waste will be pushed onto farmers via cosmetic rejections, unfair contracts, and order cancellations, at a time when many farmers suffer crippling costs due to food waste caused by retailer practices. Including farms in the targets, and expanding the scope of measurement to cover unharvested food waste, would raise pressure to reform these practices, so farms can get more of their produce to market.”

Members of the Prevent Waste Coalition on food waste now put their hopes on Member States to honour their previous commitment to the SGD 12.3 and support a binding target of 50% reduction from farm to fork.


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