In January 2016, France became the world’s first country to implement a law that forbids supermarkets from wasting food. Instead, they are required to donate all the food that for various reasons can no longer be sold in their grocery store chains to charities that help feed the poor. With unemployment steadily on the rise and millions of people struck with hunger and poverty, the French Government decided that the first step to fight hunger was to cut down on food waste.
Before this legislation was enforced, France was considered to be a major slacker in the European Union’s fight against food spillage. Until early 2016, their restaurants didn’t have the practice to package unfinished meals in doggy bags, which is something that’s been a standard practice in other western countries. Meanwhile, Denmark had established grocery store chains that sell older items at discount prices and some regions in other EU countries had taken their own measures to reduce food wasting.
The Long Road to the Law
The law on food waste was first initiated by Arash Derambarsh, an outspoken councilor in the Parisian suburb of Courbevoie. His experiences as a young, impoverished student in the country’s capital have inspired him to take a strong stance in the fight to stop hunger. His own book titled “Manifesto Against Waste” served as the basis of this act.
Four mounts had passed since the law earned the support of the National Assembly and before it was finally passed at the French Senate in a rare unanimous vote. By then, it had become part of a larger set of legal acts known as the Macron Law, named after then-Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron. During this time, Derambarsh joined forces with a local Carrefour grocery store to distribute unsold goods among the impoverished citizens of his municipality.
Will This Spark a Global Revolution?
Earlier, an estimated 7 million tons of food were thrown away every year in France, translating into 20kg of daily food waste per grocery store. The law that’s now in effect threatens supermarket owners who don’t abide by it with a financial penalty of nearly 4,000 Euros (approximately 4,250 dollars). In addition to this, restaurants that generate more than 10 tons of waste per year are now required to recycle it.
Derambarsh doesn’t want the fight to stop there; he wants to take his proposal global. As soon as the law was passed, he petitioned EU leaders to enforce similar laws in all member states. Derambarsh remains optimistic. The fight to change food consumption habits in the world has only just begun.