By Walter Einenkel / Daily Kos
Back in summer 2015, France’s Parliament voted to end food waste at grocery stores. After a judicial decision concerning the constitutionality of such a law, it went into effect at the beginning of 2016. The law banned groceries from throwing away edible food—a practice the entire developed world partakes in. Under the law, not donating edible foods you are getting rid of can result in a $4,500 fine—every time. As NPR reports, after more than a year in practice, the French law has not turned France into some totalitarian dystopia.
Across France, 5,000 charities depend on the food bank network, which now gets nearly half of its donations from grocery stores, according to Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires. The new law has increased the quantity and quality of donations. There are more fresh foods and products available further from their expiration date.
He says the law also helps cut back on food waste by getting rid of certain constraining contracts between supermarkets and food manufacturers.
“There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away,” Bailet says.
A 2013 report put the amount of food waste around the world at an extraordinary level.
Up to one-third of all food globally is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people, according to the UN.
The waste of about 1.3 billion tons of food each year is causing economic losses of $750bn and significant damage to the environment, a 2013 report stated.
The Washington Post reported back in 2012 that the United States, as you might imagine, is one of the more egregious actors in this morally bankrupt practice.
Each year, about 40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten. It’s just tossed out or left to rot. And that’s a fairly large waste of resources. All that freshwater and land, all that fertilizer and energy — for nothing. By one recent estimate, Americans are squandering the equivalent of $165 billion each year by rubbishing so much food.
And while a lot of that waste happens throughout the food chain, from farming to all of our own personal dinner tables, a considerable amount of that waste can be found in the places we buy our foodstuffs from.
Retail and grocery stores: Grocery stores are another huge source of rubbished food — with the USDA estimating that supermarkets toss out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables alone each year. But waste is also seen as the cost of doing business. Stores would rather overstock their shelves and throw out the remainder than look empty. Supermarkets will also winnow out produce that’s in subpar condition since few shoppers want to buy an apple that’s all bruised up.
The fact is that this law is a win for French society. It means healthy and good, fresh foods for those in need, less waste (which is both better for our environment), and, maybe, more importantly, the betterment of our collective souls.