Aside from tackling supermarket food waste, the draft legislation will force restaurants to offer free takeaway containers for leftover food.
Spain has approved an ambitious draft bill to issue large fines of up to USD$62,500 (€60,000) and up to USD$520,000 (€500,000) for repeat offenders in a bid to crack down on food waste in the country.
Every year, about one third of global food supplies are wasted or lost, equivalent to about 2.5 billion tonnes of food. The astronomical amount of food waste is enough to feed three billion people and essentially all those living in hunger. Spain alone is responsible for 1,300 tonnes of annual food loss, which translates into about 31kg per person.
Food waste contributes to climate change as well. Discarded and rotting food, particularly in landfills, emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Currently, food waste accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the warming of the Earth’s surface, according to a 2011 report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
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To raise citizens’ awareness of the “economic, social, environmental and ethical consequences” of food waste, Spain’s Socialist-led government has introduced legislation that will force all companies involved in the production and supply of food to adopt a plan for reducing food waste.
Luis Planas, Spain’s Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Minister describes the bill to be an “ethical” one. “In a world where hunger and malnutrition unfortunately still exist, this issue is obviously a matter of conscience for all of us,” he explains.
Food retailers and restaurants will be forced to work with local organisations and food banks to prevent any unsold food being thrown away. Bigger businesses will additionally have to submit plans for food donation before it passes its best before date. Those in violation of the rule will face a hefty fine.
The bill will also require bars and restaurants to offer free containers for customers to take home any leftover food, a practice that is currently not common in Spain. For food items that are unsafe for human consumption, it will be used first for animal feed and then for other industries such as the production of biofuels.
While individuals will not be fined for their own food waste, the government does recognise that much of the waste that occurs at the consumer level – in the EU, 53% of food waste occurs in households. Spain is therefore relying on educational campaigns to change domestic behaviour.
The legislation is currently headed to the parliament for approval, with the government hoping to have it in effect by early 2023.
France and Italy have previously introduced similar legislation to tackle food waste in their respective countries. In 2016, France became the first nation in the world to tackle supermarket food waste by banning the destruction of unsold (and edible) food to achieve the goal of halving food waste by 2025. Likewise, Italy has certain requirements for companies across the food chain to reduce waste, and offers tax breaks for food donation and redistribution of unsold products.