In May, the French Parliament unanimously passed a law that banned supermarkets and restaurants from throwing out food. The excess food has to either be used as animal food, composted or donated to food pantries or charities. A recent economic slump has revealed just how many French people scavenge dumpsters for food every night. Now, they will get the food they need.
Although the law does not go into effect until next July, supermarkets and other food distributors are taking early initiative. According to Jacques Creysel, who represents La Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution, over 4,500 stores have already partnered with charities or food banks. There are also reports of “food tents” popping up around grocery stores, where food-insecure citizens can come and shop for free.
Food waste is a troubling problem in France and the developed world. Every year, about a third to a half of all food produced is thrown out. This is an unacceptable number, considering one out of every nine people on earth is food insecure.
The waste has other and less obvious consequences. When food is thrown away, all the labor and natural resources that went into producing and transporting it are also wasted. Once the food waste gets into a landfill, it decomposes without oxygen, and produces methane. This greenhouse gas is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
The law will also prohibit retailers from bleaching food before it goes to the dumpsters, a common strategy employed by food stores to discourage people from scavenging in the garbage.
The man who inspired the law, Arash Derambarsh, is now campaigning to get other countries to adopt it. A Councillor in his Paris suburb, Derambarsh received over 200,000 petition signatures supporting the law. Now he has the support of ONE, an anti-poverty group led by U2 singer Bono, the French government and other groups.
Derambarsh and his supporters are now bringing this issue to the highest level. At the Climate Change Conference in Paris this December, they are hoping to convince other countries to ban food waste.
Food waste does not make sense from an environmental and financial standpoint. But when there are over 800 million food-insecure people around the globe, it becomes unconscionable.
Fortunately, the issue is getting addressed with urgency.
– Kevin Meyers