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'No place for food waste' says EC

EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik has called on retailers to increase their food recovery initiatives to cut waste.

Speaking at the Retail Forum for Sustainability 2012 in Brussels yesterday, Potočnik said that there was “no place for food waste in a resource constrained world” and called for a “revolution” in the way food is produced and consumed.

He said that although food waste occurred at every stage of the food supply chain it happened mostly at the retail and consumption stages in the European Union and North America.

The commissioner said that the largest food providers had a responsibility to minimise food waste, and that this could be done by developing food banks and increasing food recovery campaigns, among other initiatives.

Europe produces around 89 million tons of food waste per year, according to Potočnik.

Janez Potocnik

Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment

“This waste is all the more horrific when you consider the true scale of the resources required to produce those 89 million tons,” he said. “We are talking about fuel and mining activity to make fertilizer, transport, refrigeration, packaging, toxic emissions to air and water, and the use of many other natural resources. Think of this, it takes between five and 10 tonnes of water to produce just one kilogram of beef.”

“And the story does not even stop there. We actually still bury or burn a lot of that waste. Relatively little is composted.”

Potočnik said that a commission study estimated that 20% of avoidable food waste was due to a misunderstanding of “best before” date on packaging.

“That’s millions and millions of tonnes of perfectly good, delicious, precious food, burned or sent to landfill just because two words are slightly misleading,” he said. “Surely together we can do something about that?”

Retailers at the forum pledged to provide their own initiatives to raise awareness of food waste and prevention.

Best practice examples of waste reduction were also highlighted at the forum, including IKEA which recycles up to 86 per cent of store waste and developed sustainable cotton projects.

The commission will next year outline action to support proper monitoring of waste at all stages of the food chain, to ensure targets are set, and guidance on overcoming barriers to cutting food waste.

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