Here at Rubbish Please, we talk about recycling fairly often. Plastic, paper, glass bottles, even wine corks and dirty diapers can find new use after their life expires. However, there is one product that makes our landfills overflow but we rarely talk about recycling it—unsold supermarket food.
French lawmaker Arash Derambarsh proposed a law—which has since been passed—banning the destruction of food products beyond their point of expiration. Previously, the common practice was to soak those products in bleach so poor and homeless people won’t be able to take it home. The new law, which has been called by the media “the food waste ban”, prohibits such acts. Food which is suitable for human consumption must now be donated to charities; spoiled food items will be used in agriculture as a compost or animal feed. Failing to oblige with the law will result in fine and even possible jail time.
“Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence”, MP Derambarsh told the Guardian. He also expressed desire to make the world follow his example. Inspired by France’s new law, UK retailer Tesco announced it will cut down on food waste by donating unsold food, still suitable for consumption, to charities. Each year Tesco throws out 55,400 tonnes of food, 30,000 of which are fine to eat.
A group of citizens have taken it to themselves to force retailers to follow Tesco’s example. An online petition to introduce such law in the UK has already gained 175,000 signatures out of 200,000 required. It urges prime minister David Cameron and his Conservative government to introduce a similar law—and note how Britain’s growing reliance on food banks is bigger than France’s.
However, not everybody is keen on the idea. The French lawmakers have been criticised they transferred their responsibility to deal with poverty onto supermarkets. Some view the punishment for failing to oblige with the law—possible jail time—as too harsh. Others note how only 10% of all food waste in France comes from retailers, with over 67% being wasted by the consumer.
Regardless, people agree that food waste is a major problem that should be dealt with. Recycling is a great way to reduce the size of landfills—and the best part is it can be as easy as ensuring you don’t throw out food articles, and instead donate them to those in need.