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Food waste - the challenge

Food waste is an important and worrisome global issue that have consequences on different levels, such as food security, environmental, economy, among others. In the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually.

The most recent study estimates of European food waste levels reveal that 53% of EU food waste arises in the household, following by processing (19%) and production (11%).

The food waste generated annually have associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. However, wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but also depletes the environment of limited natural resources.

The studies realised by Fusions, 2016, show that households have a determining role in our collective future. However, it is estimated that 1/3 of the food produced does not reach its destination - the consumer. Food waste starts long before the consumer and what he wastes at home. It starts in production, which represents an "economic absurdity" and has huge environmental and social impacts.

Agriculture also has an important role to reduce food waste and environmental paradigm – climate change, its effects and the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources. It should also be noted that every time we waste food, it is not only the food that is discarded, but also the various resources used, such as water and the factors production - which are currently very scarce.

We need to be aware of the importance of the issue of food loss and food waste in order to promote and implement our global efforts to address it. In this regard have already been adopting around the world measures, projects and actions to tackle the food waste. During this article, will be presented some examples.

For example, has been developed an EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste that plays a key role in mobilising action to reduce food losses and food waste across the EU as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy. In addition, the European Commission and the EU countries are committed to meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3, adopted in September 2015 and the commission launched a challenge to their members - halve food waste by 2030.

This implies a very big effort from all parties, from those who produce and process foods (farmers, food manufacturers and processors) to those who make foods available for consumption (hospitality sector, retailers) and consumers themselves, trying to make the food system fairer and more sustainable. The various members of the EU already too adopted more specific actions to reduce national food waste.

Good examples on reducing food waste

To avoid this waste as much as possible, the food chain must be planned and adapted, combining factors such as supply and demand, responding to consumers' changing tastes and preferences. For example, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) published a food waste reduction and monitoring roadmap, covering regulation, changes in practices, education, etc. The aim is to make the topics of this roadmap and the adopted measures available to all stakeholders and to strengthen cooperation in the food supply chain.

Also, in order to obtain reliable and up-to-date data on food losses and waste in Poland, a project entitled ‘Developing a system for monitoring wasted food and an effective program to rationalize losses and reduce food waste’ is being carried out. In Germany, Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, Julia Klöckner, under the National Strategy for Food Waste Reduction, presented the funding certificates granted to dialogue forums that enable the exchange of information and experience as well as the preparation of targets. Also, by demonstrating relevant examples from farms and companies, measures for food waste reduction will be identified, tested and evaluated.

Other of the important topic to reduce the food waste and result in 10% of food waste in the EU is lack of knowledge about expiration dates. A survey conducted Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during November 2020, found that 68% of Irish citizens say “passing use by dates” is the main reason they throw away food at home.

Accordingly, the EPA conducted the national "Eat It or Freeze It" awareness campaign to inform Irish citizens that by eating or freezing food to its "use by" date they can make their food go further, save up to €700 per year, and avoid food waste. In this regard, the Netherlands has also started a project that better explains the different date markings on the packaging.

Also, in Netherlands, in January 2021, Wageningen University & Research started research to determine the impact of different visual cues to improve consumer understanding and use of date marking to prevent food waste.

Education is the key

Furthermore, food waste is a concept that must be imbued in the consciousness of all of us, ingrained in societies, and this starts with communication from an early age, clarification about certain issues and the adoption of practices that minimize it - alert for the scarce resources and call for the consumption of fresh, seasonal and little processed products, which will enhance the local economy and save resources. There is often little communication about what to do with food waste to the consumer, businesses, and supply chains.

In this regard, in 2019, the 74th United Nations General Assembly designated September 29 as International Food Loss and Food Waste Awareness Day, recognizing the critical role that sustainable food production plays in promoting food security and nutrition, as well as combating hunger and climate change.

Furthermore, in January 2021 in Denmark, the Stop Wasting Food movement launched a national media campaign entitled "Save your money and save your food in January." The campaign promoted an extensive guide aimed at inspiring citizens with tips on how to use all their food in the context of Covid-19, how to properly store food, and how to better plan portions.

Apps have also been developed, such as the app “Too Good To Go", with the slogan "Save food, help the planet" that allows you to buy great food that would otherwise go to waste at incredible prices. Too Good To Go already has almost 700 Waste Warriors who prevent quality food from ending up in the trash every day. In addition to buying food at very affordable prices, you are preserving the environment by reducing food waste and CO2 emissions.

Together against food waste

Some companies join for safe million tons of food around the world, that has been discarded. For example, Boroume partners with food companies throughout the food supply chain to save and donate surplus food to charitable organizations.

Among food donors are companies such as AEGEAN, the largest Greek airline and Star Alliance member, which has been a constant food donor, saving and donating food as part of its daily operations. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Boroume has been called upon to manage the donation of over 700,000 portions of food, which unfortunately could not be distributed by the company due to the suspension of many flights.

Also in France, Food Banks partner with soccer clubs to combat food waste. Sporting events generate large amounts of food waste. After each game, Food Bank volunteers go to the stadiums to collect unsold food and redistribute it to people in need. Thanks to this partnership, more than 22 tons of food has already been offered to people in need.

The Re-food Movement is based on the same pillars, working to eliminate food waste and hunger in every neighbourhood. It was born in Portugal and now the interest is already international, with people or teams working in nearby cities and taking the benefits of the Re-food model to their cities. Also in Portugal, the movement, "Unidos contra o desperdício" (United against waste), was created with the aim of alerting people to food waste throughout the chain.

The tackling of food waste is a concern of everyone, and together we can make the difference.

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