French people throw out 7.1 million tons each year, but are trying to cut that number down significantly. The French national assembly recently passed a law that makes it illegal for supermarkets to dump unsold food. Instead, large grocery stores must donate the unsold food to charities.
The law also stops stores from dumping bleach into garbage bins, which was done to keep dumpster divers from eating discarded food and getting food poisoning.
The effort was spearheaded by a local politician who wanted to highlight how food waste is a class issue — while people who can afford to eat regularly toss out food, or supermarkets can’t sell entire stocks of products, others must resort to eating from the garbage to get a meal.
That politician, Arash Derambarsh, now wants to take the law globally.
The Guardian reports: “Derambarsh started his campaign by collecting and distributing unwanted food from his local supermarket. ‘Every day we’d help around 100 people. Half would be single mothers with several children, pensioners or public workers on low salaries, the other half would be those living on the streets or in shelters,’ he said.”
People in the U.S. threw more than 35 million tons of food in the garbage bin in 2014. Food waste is found in American landfills more than any other kind of garbage, including plastic.
Some critics of the French ban say that targeting supermarkets is not the solution, because grocery stores are a small contributor to food waste. Residential garbage is the main culprit of discarded usable food.
Oregonians have taken cues from the French movement to cut down on food waste. Last year, the country pushed stores to sell “ugly food” — bruised produce or misshaped fruits that are usually scrapped as animal feed — at discount prices.
A microfarm in Colton started making “Ugly Goat Kraut,” a saurkraut made from the organic veggies that weren’t pretty enough to sell at farmers markets. Usually, the kale and carrots would go over the fence into the goat pen, but the farm owners felt that the food would be better given to humans, even if it had tiny holes in the leaves from pests.
Thinkers in the agriculture and food system community are also trying to figure out ways to provide more fresh, local food to people who can’t afford the cost or time of regular trips to organic grocery stores, or have obstacles blocking them from buying veggies and fruits.
Here’s a recent story about one way to solve the problem: Oregon lacking ‘ag in the middle’ — mid-sized companies that could make companies like Burgerville more local