France May Have Found That Fighting Food Waste Comes Down to One Surprising Secret

food waste

France may have discovered the secret to fighting food waste. It’s not necessarily in writing laws or bills, but in creating an incentive for participation… whether it be positive or negative.

French Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal recently came up with a multi-part plan that will hopefully slowly be coming into action over the course of next year. As of right now, there are two main targets for this plan: supermarkets and schools.

Targeting Food Waste in Supermarkets Despite a Scrapped Law

Supermarkets cause an enormous amount of food waste. According to a report by former Ecology Minster Guillaume Garot, while supermarkets are still behind individuals and restaurants in food waste, they do waste between 562 and 750 kilotons per year (versus 1,080 in restaurants and between 2,212 and 6,323 in households).

And while the ugly fruits and vegetables campaign in France is still going strong, expanding to other major supermarket chains throughout France, Royal and other ecological heavyweights in France still decided to target them by adding an article to May’s energy bill regarding supermarkets and food waste. Namely, supermarkets would be forbidden from throwing food away, instead being obliged to donate it to a cause where it would be consumable by humans or animals.

While this article was scrapped on an unfortunate technicality, Royal is encouraging supermarket chains to adhere to it anyway on a voluntary basis, and many are doing so. Of course, the reason may be that Royal has also threatened to name all supermarkets who do not adhere to the suggested rules.

“I will make the big names who do not wish to participate in this contract known,” she said at a recent press conference. “I don’t think that would be very good publicity for them.”

Targeting Schools’ Food Waste Through Positive Reinforcement

But the threat of bad press is not the only way Royal is encouraging groups to avoid food waste. She has also released a plan that she hopes will solve food waste problems both in the near and distant future.

“I’m putting out a call for projects, to all elementary schools, middle schools and high schools,” Royal announced on French news channel France 2 on August 25th. “The first 1,000 schools to make a plan to fight against food waste — because that’s also part of environmental education — will be given a kitchen garden, a little piece of nature.”

The students are responsible not just for the proposal to cut food waste but for putting it into action. Royal, meanwhile, will have to do her part to stay true to her promise. She says she’s counting on associations in cities and farmers in the countryside to help these gardens become a reality and to help students truly take advantage of the learning experience that is growing their own food and tending their own gardens. She hopes that opening their eyes to the problem will make children more aware of food waste as they approach adulthood.

With these two projects underway, Royal doesn’t seem close to calling it quits. The former presidential candidate also has plans for other groups guilty of food waste, including businesses, hospitals and retirement homes. It may be time to look to the French for answers on the food waste problems plaguing this country and others across the globe.

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Food waste image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco