Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 5.1 million tonnes
Considering that food waste annually costs the national economy an estimated €12 billion, it is no surprise that Italy has been stepping up its efforts to save food from the garbage. Agricultural Minister Maurizio Martina has stated that he wants the country to recover one billion tons of excess food by the end of this year, and there are many new initiatives underway that could make his goal a reality.
At the end of July, Italy’s senate reinvigorated the country’s food recovery policies by providing incentives for and removing bureaucratic hurdles associated with donating surpluses to charities. For instance, restaurants, retailers, and manufacturers must no longer declare each donation in advance but instead complete only one declaration for all donations made each month. Additionally, products can be donated after their sell-by dates; farmers can freely give excess produce to charities; and all food donors will be rewarded with tax reductions. Ministers hope that the law will save at least 1 million tons of food from going to waste each year.
The agricultural ministry has also been looking at reducing consumer waste. Much like France, Italy is home to strong anti-doggy-bag bias that stops many restaurant customers from saving the food they don’t finish in one sitting. The term ‘family bag’ is now being promoted to emphasize that leftovers provide families with delicious second meals and distance the idea from the negative connotation of dog food. Another campaign is researching new forms of packaging to preserve food better, especially during transit.
Unsurprisingly, Italy is home to many organizations that connect recovered food to hungry mouths. Rete Banco Alimentare is a national network of 21 food banks that redistributes donations from producers, restaurants, caterers, and retailers to nearly 9,000 charitable organizations throughout the country. The volunteer-based organization started in 1989 and, eight years later, launched National Food Collection Day, in which customers can buy food to be redistributed to charities. In 2013, more than 11,000 supermarkets participated in the annual event, allowing over 9,000 tons of food to be collected by 135,000 participants.
Alongside government programs and charitable organizations, activists within the food industry are getting international attention for combating waste. Chef Massimo Bottura, head of the World’s Best Restaurant 2016 Osteria Francescana, made headlines at the Expo Milano and again at the 2016 Olympic Games for setting up soup kitchens that utilized excess food from the respective events to feed those in need. Another renowned Italian chef, Ugo Alciati, requires his customers to reserve at his restaurant and eat from a fixed menu to minimize the amount of food left in his kitchen at the end of each day.
Bravo, Italy! Dire di no a rifiuti alimentari.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner (The Guardian) – Italy Tackles Food Waste with Law Encouraging Firms to Donate Food