Americans toss out an almost unbelievable $161 billion worth of food every year. There are numerous efforts underway to address this problem, but they are mostly at the local level or in the business sector. To date, we have no national- or international-level policies that tackle the issue. In this regard, Europe is way ahead of us.
Grassroots movements in Europe such as Disco Soups and the Feeding the 5000 events were instrumental in getting policy makers to understand the food waste issue and stimulate the popular appetite to do something about it.
As a result, France passed a historic law requiring all large supermarkets to donate unsold food to farms or charities. Italy passed a law that provided millions in incentives for grocery stores to develop better systems to donate food waste. In Germany, government officials are aiming to reduce food waste per capita by 50% by the year 2025.
Not only are individual European countries making progress; there is momentum for change at the multinational level. The European Commission, the chief executive body of the EU, is working to develop food waste guidelines for the entire 28-nation bloc as part of a wider program called the Circular Economy Package.
So why are we so far behind on this issue? Part of it is our extremely decentralized waste management system. Our politics is also to blame. Since 2010, when food waste emerged as a global issue, the U.S. has seen unprecedented gridlock in Congress, keeping sustainability out of national-level policy making. Unfortunately, this is not likely to change with the new administration.
Europe has not solved its food waste problems by any means, but at least it is heading in the right direction.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.