Small signs of progress: Europe moves towards clearer targets on reducing food waste

We reported back in January on how it is regrettable that the European Parliament ENVI Committee had set a non-binding target to halve food waste in EU Member States by 2030. Yesterday, the European Parliament voted in Plenary to revise the Waste Framework Directive and, in accordance with the ENVI Committee’s position, supported the new definition of food waste and  the targets that must be set in order to effectively reduce it.

food waste

The vote went better than expected, in that many important amendments  to the EC’s proposal were passed. These include the following:

  • establishing a definition of food waste
  • establishing a hierarchy of food waste (i.e. identifying the different methods of food waste disposal that can help combat the problem)
  • setting a 50% food waste reduction target for EU Member States
  • setting a methodology for measuring waste
  • introducing a review clause  calling on the European Commission to set binding targets by the end of 2020, to be met by 2025 and 2030 on the basis of the measurements calculated in accordance with the common methodology.

What didn’t pass, unfortunately, was an amendment that would have helped clarify some of the ambiguities that linger in the current definition of food waste. The problem is that the definition agreed upon includes “food intended for human consumption, either in edible or inedible status, removed from the production or supply chain to be discarded, including at primary production, processing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, retail and consumer levels”,  but excludes “primary production losses”, the definition of which is not clear but may be understood as food rendered inedible before harvest or edible food left unharvested or discarded post-harvest. But in order for the other measures to be effective, it is important that there are no loopholes through which countries can avoid missing targets by categorizing food waste as a “primary production loss”, and therefore excluded from the count.

The good news is that we now have a clear timeline established for the previously non-binding targets to become binding. According to the justification to the amendment,  by the end of 2017 the methodology for measuring food waste will be finalized, and a report for 2018 must be delivered by Member States by the end of 2019, and on the basis of this baseline, the Commission could assess the setting of a binding target by the end of 2020.


Click here to read Slow Food’s position paper on food waste.


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