Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Will there be a food waste law for Norway?

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
The French did it first, and in February they passed a law that bans food waste at supermarkets and ensures that leftover food goes to people in need.

An Italian law that was passed two months ago has a different approach to their food waste problem. Business owners will pay less waste tax the more they donate, and the law also allows Italian farmers to donate unsold produce without extra costs.1

Taking legal steps to reduce food waste has spread like wildfire, and the Norwegian NGO - Future in our hands (Framtiden i våre hender) - demands a similar "food waste law" for Norway.
Will there be a "food waste law" for Norway?
Will there be a "food waste law" for Norway?

Last week I was lucky to attend a seminar about how to reduce the food waste in Norway.

According to the political party Christian Democrats, the party has made a law proposal that will be handed over to the Parliament this month.2

Their law proposal is quite similar to what France has already accomplished, and will make it mandatory for supermarkets to donate edible food to people in need. This would allow to feed 900.000 people in Norway - about 1/5 of the Norwegian population.

However, as the food industry has pointed out - it is crucial that a large apparatus is at place that can handle the leftover food if such a law is passed. Many food banks need to be established and right about now, Norway has only one official food bank which was established in 2013.

In other words, there's work to be done. But firstly, the politicians need to come to a consensus just like the French politicians did. Once we have a law, the food industry and the politicians need to come to an agreement on how to practically manage the supermarkets' leftover food.

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One of the lecturers at the seminar told about the process for the French food waste law
One of the lecturers at the seminar told about the process for the French food waste law

What about consumer's food waste?

There's a lot of talk about this law that is directed towards the supermarkets. But what about the consumers' food waste, especially considering the striking statistics presented by the Eastern Norway Research Institute (Østlandsforskning). 

Although Norway is a small country with about 5 million inhabitants, we're still one of the richest countries in the world.

The total amount of Norwegian food waste is estimated to 355.000 tons per year, and the average person throws away 42,1 kg annually. We're talking about edible food, and not scraps and bones.

Even if the statistics show that Norwegian consumers have thrown less food from 2010 to 2015, there has been a rise in economic loss.3

How is that possible? 

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Swiss chard from the allotment garden in Oslo
Swiss chard from the allotment garden in Oslo

The logic is pretty simple: We throw away less cheap food such as bread, but waste more expensive food with large carbon footprints such as meat and fish.

Norwegian consumers are responsible for a whopping 61% of the total food waste in the country!

The food waste is comprised of:
  • Leftover food - 31%
  • Fruit and vegetables - 27%
  • Bread - 13%
  • Meat and fish - 7%
  • Dairy products - 6%

Since Norwegian consumers generate most food waste, the focus should obviously be on us, and not only the supermarkets.

For a couple of years now, several NGOs have used the social media to spread awareness of how each consumer can minimize the household food waste - posting recipes for leftover vegetables and sharing statistics on how much food waste we generate.

But how about taking it to the next step?

Maybe hand out flyers on the streets or in people's mailboxes with statistics that ordinary people can understand and information on 'Top wasted food'. We regularly receive flyers from our local borough on how to recycle waste in general. So I don't think that handing out information on how to reduce food waste specifically would be considered invasive.

In fact, I think that many consumers would react if they were presented the right information.

Hell, I didn't know that Norwegian consumers account for most of the food waste in the country. With this information at hand, we can maybe become more conscious about eating leftovers, plan grocery shopping and how to store vegetables correctly.

I'm ready to take responsibility for my food waste... are you? :-)

How is your country taking responsibility for the food waste? What do you think about a 'food waste law'? Share your thoughts in the comment field below :-)

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