Speech by Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, in charge of Health and Food Safety at the 6th EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.
Four years have passed since we launched the EU's ground-breaking, unique of this type globally, Circular Economy Action Plan.
In that time, we have delivered or are implementing each of the Plan's 54 actions.
Together, these efforts are protecting the environment, boosting Europe's competitiveness, modernising its economy and industry, and generating sustainable growth.
Circular Economy Action Plan
In March 2019, the Commission published a report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan. It shows how the Plan has accelerated the transition towards a circular economy.
What does this mean in practice? Well, job creation, for a start.
In 2016, sectors relevant to the circular economy employed more than four million workers – a 6% increase compared to 2012.
Circularity has opened up new business opportunities.
In 2016, circular activities such as repair, reuse or recycling generated almost EUR 147 billion in value added. They also accounted for around EUR 17.5 billion worth of investments.
Overarching all of this is the drive for a more sustainable future – in which the food sector plays a fundamental role.
In the EU, 61% of biomass is mainly used for food and animal feed and the whole food chain sector employs one fifth of the workforce.
But food is far more than just a trading commodity. It is loaded with historical, cultural, and social values. And of course, it has a direct impact on our environment.
While citizens expect their food to be safe and affordable, they are increasingly concerned about food quality, its origins and impact on their health and the environment.
The sustainable management of land, soil, water, and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, are essential to making food systems circular.
The Circular Economy Action Plan from 2015 identified food waste prevention as a priority area for action.
Later on, while adopting a monitoring framework to measure the Circular Economy development, we have pointed to food waste level as one of 10 key indicators to follow.
The EU is absolutely committed to being a leading force in the global fight against food loss. Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 – to halve food waste by 2030 – is our overarching target here.
Indeed, if we needed any reminding, the recent Reflection Paper “Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030” highlights the importance of fighting food waste to strengthen the sustainability of our food systems.
So what have we achieved? Some examples:
First, the establishment of this platform, whose contribution – with active engagement of all relevant parties - is pivotal.
Second, we have adopted EU guidelines to facilitate food donation and the use of food no longer intended for human consumption in animal feed.
Third, we are undertaking work to improve date marking practices.
In food waste, as in life, what gets measured gets managed. To be able to act meaningfully we need to know where, what, how much and why we are losing food resources.
For example, date marking practices contribute up to 10% of food waste in the EU supply chain.
Thanks to the revised EU waste legislation, adopted as part of the Circular Economy Action Plan in 2018, we will have access to consistent data on food waste.
But we want to go even further and help Member States to quantify food waste at every stage of the supply chain.
I am therefore delighted to announce that the Commission has also adopted last Friday (03/05) a Delegated Act laying down a common food waste measurement methodology.
This will be transmitted to the co-legislators this summer with a view to final adoption in the autumn.
In addition to monitoring of food waste by Member States, I count on the active participation of food business operators to measure and report on waste levels.
The business case for food waste prevention is convincing: you will recall the research by the Champions 12.3 Coalition (of which Commissioner Andriukaitis is a member) showing that companies saved USD 14 for every USD 1 invested in reducing food waste.
Sharing data is crucial and will enable Member States to implement effective, evidence-based, national food waste prevention programmes.
While advancing the Circular Economy agenda we value very much direct interaction with stakeholders across entire value chains.
Feedback from members shows that this forum has well contributed to this approach. It has catalysed inter-sectoral cooperation between public and private actors. At the same time, it has enabled replication and scaling-up of initiatives within and across Member States.
But over half of food waste generated in the EU is at household level. So the transition to greater circularity and more sustainable food systems needs the active engagement of citizens.
The food and drinks sector has not yet received the same overwhelming attention level which was given to our actions related to plastics. But it should come.
There are plenty opportunities to redesign a food system that minimises losses and promotes circularity. This will maximise value for consumers, producers and society as a whole.
A systemic approach also means achieving full recyclability of plastic food packaging by 2030 in line with the Commission's plastics strategy.
Turning bio-waste, residues and discards into valuable resources, as part of the bio-economy, offers further business opportunities.
Food loss and waste is nothing else but a symptom of a dysfunctional food system and tackling its root causes requires rethinking how we produce, market, distribute and consume food.
The forthcoming “recommendations for action” in food waste prevention, to be elaborated and adopted by this Platform in December 2019, can make an important contribution to this effort.
We need to enable mechanisms at international, EU, national and local level to help stakeholders make a successful transition to more sustainable food systems.
Of course, policies aimed at strengthening sustainable production and consumption have to safeguard food safety, animal and human health.
A “business as usual” approach is not enough to tackle the many, interrelated and competing challenges faced by our food systems.
But we are moving in the right direction.
32 of the world's 50 largest food companies (by revenue) have independently set, or participate in programs that have set, a food loss and waste reduction target consistent with SDG 12.3.
In March 2019, the World Bank launched the first Sustainable Development Bond to raise awareness on the importance of combating food loss and waste. It is also directly linked with SDG 12.3.
We also have our part to do. The Commission looks forward to working closely with you towards more sustainable food systems and towards a sustainable Europe.