Campaign to cut supermarket food waste reaches European parliament

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A French councillor’s campaign to stamp out food waste by forcing supermarkets to give unwanted items to charity will reach the European level on Wednesday.

Arash Derambarsh, who has already persuaded the French government to pass a law barring shops from destroying food as it approaches its sell-by date, hopes the European parliament will approve an amendment to a new “circular economy” law encouraging individual member states to follow suit.

Derambarsh, a municipal councillor in Courbevoie, north-west of Paris, said he was confident the amended law would be approved during Wednesday’s proposed vote, describing it as historic.

“This is such an important issue and we have to work fast before the food lobbies get together and start opposing us,” he said.

“I set a deadline of getting the law passed in France and Europe within a year, and we’re six months in, so we’re doing well. After that, it’s the world.”

If Wednesday’s law is approved, Derambarsh said it would go before the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who would decide if and when it should be applied.

Derambarsh said: “I call on Mr Juncker to sign it immediately so it can be applied now. This is the most important legislation of the year and we cannot lose time.”

The councillor started his campaign by collecting unsold food from his local supermarket. He and a team of helpers personally distributed it to the needy, many of them pensioners, families struggling in poverty and people living on the streets and in shelters.

A petition launched in seven European countries including Britain that calls for support for the law has more than 538,000 signatures.

Derambarsh has the backing of French MEPs Nicole Fontaine, a former European parliament president, and Angélique Delahaye, of the centre-right Republican party, who introduced the amendment into the law.

During a recent visit to Italy, he also enlisted the support of former UN goodwill ambassador and actor Gina Lollobrigida.

The amendment calls on the European commission to “promote in member states the creation of conventions proposing that retail food sector distribute their unsold products to charity associations”.

Derambarsh is planning to table the issue – via the campaign group ONE, founded by U2 singer Bono – in September when the United Nations discusses its millennium development goals to end poverty in September, as well as at the G20 economic summit in Turkey in November and the COP21 environment conference in Paris in December.

An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food is binned in France each year – 67% of it by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The figure for food waste across the EU is 89m tonnes while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.

SOURCE: The Guardian, 07/07/2015,