Learning From France’s Food Waste Ban

Nov. 11, 2019Food waste is a MASSIVE problem, but solving it may be more within our reach than we realize.



In 2016, France became the first country in the world to make it illegal for grocery stores to throw away or destroy unsold food. Under the new law, which passed UNANIMOUSLY, grocery stores in France are now required to donate unused food to charities and food banks.

A spokesperson for a network of French food banks said that even just a 15% increase in food coming from grocery stores would allow them to provide 10 million more meals to the hungry each year.

As France continues to tackle the waste problem, government officials and activists alike have their eyes on consumer goods next.

 

Why the World Throws Away So Much Food

Grocery store chains have a policy to throw away unsold foods instead of donating it. The idea is that giving away perfectly good food decreases demand and is bad for business. The result?

Tons of food every year — perfectly edible food — literally gets thrown away.

It’s a problem that has outraged consumers as media reports have continued to surface of the practice’s widespread use. It’s a policy, a standard operating procedure for most grocery stores.

And in the face of 815 million people who go hungry each year in the world, this practice is ridiculous.

Food Waste In America

The problem is every bit as pervasive in America as it is in Europe, and insiders report, it’s just part of the business model.

Believe it or not, grocery stores are intentionally overstocked. And the worst part? It’s because of consumer buying habits.

Fully stocked shelves sell better. Customers don’t like dented cans or imperfect fruit. Anything that isn’t perfect is thrown away, and any store that doesn’t maintain those standards suffers in sales.

In fact, a store that produces very little food waste is likely not stocking enough inventory to keep on hand what customers want to buy.

In short, this is a problem that manifests itself in the grocery store, but it starts with US.

 

We As Shoppers Have All the Power

It’s a humbling thing, realizing that the only reason grocery stores have so much food waste is because shoppers are so picky. Even as I pass over a dented box of granola bars, I feel guilty — am I a part of this problem?

And the answer is yes, I AM a part of this problem. We all are.

Because on some subconscious level, never having to worry about finding food has made us really, really picky. We pass over half-empty shelves. We don’t want the funny shaped carrot. We overstock our homes with fresh produce, then throw half of it away because we don’t cook it before it goes bad. The reality is that consumers actually waste TWICE as much food as retailers. Twice. As. Much.

So even though those grocery store chains could still be donating their excess to food pantries and homeless shelters, the reality is that we could be buying less and lowering our own standards.

We Can All Do Better

What France’s food waste ban has shown us is that there is a solution to this problem, and that way, WAY too much food is winding up in landfills.

But looking at the data, it’s also shown us that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Grocery store chains can start donating their excess food in the same fashion. That WILL have an impact.

But we as consumers can also stop being so freaking picky, eat what we buy, and shop with intention.

Grocery rescue programs exist all over the country, and a SHOCKING number of major retailers already participate in them. While there’s always room for improvement, the biggest difference we can make might very well be in our own shopping carts.

 

Three Simple Ways Consumers Can Cut Back on Food Waste

Do you know what I love? A problem I can solve. Something I can DO something about. 

And the really great thing about the food waste problem is that we really, really can do something about it. Three somethings in fact:

  1. Support local farmers. Shopping local is always best, visit your local farmer’s market or find out if your local farmers have a delivery service (many do!).
  2. Start meal planning . I get it, meal planning is a whole thing, but seriously — a huge part of why so much food goes to waste is that we just BUY STUFF, with no real plan for what we’re going to do with it. Meal planning will cut down on your food waste, and it might even save you some money.
  3. Repurpose your leftovers. If you can’t stomach another night of lasagna, turn it into something else. One of my favorite things to do is roll a roasted chicken into three meals: roasted herb chicken, then buffalo chicken casserole, then using the bones and remaining meat for chicken and dumplings.
 

Raise your forks to a better future with us — show us how you’re eliminating food waste in your home on Facebook or Instagram, and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress

Destiny Hagest

By Destiny Hagest

 —  Destiny is a freelance writer with a background in sustainability and natural health. She lives in the mountains of central Montana with her husband and young son. When she's not writing or chasing her toddler, you can find her wandering the quiet wilderness in search of wild herbs and antler sheds.

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