Fighting food waste while boosting local economic activity
The session focused on finding answers to the question: “how can local and regional authorities turn food waste from public institutions, businesses, and households into a resource for the whole of society?”
To frame the discussion, the moderator introduced where, how and why food waste occurs and what the environmental, social, and economic impacts of it are. Turning towards solutions, the participants heard from three projects on how the issue can be tackled.
CIRCTER looks at the circular economy with a territorial focus. The project analyses regionalised data on consumption and explores different case studies. It looks into local strategic approaches adopted in different areas and market segments of local economy and has developed a policy guidance document. Food is primarily addressed via material provision (biomass) and food waste. During the session, the statistics currently available on food waste (broad European coverage) were presented, reflecting also on some of the limitations of the available measures.
ECOWASTE4FOOD works with regional authorities to improve the regional or municipal policy instruments in the area of food waste reduction. The project also engages agro-food companies, retailers, and producers/farmers. It seeks to improve the coordination of existing policy instruments to better address food waste as a transversal issue. The project runs over four years in two phases. First, the regions identified and shared good practices. Based on this exchange, each partner developed an action plan, which is now being put into practice in the regions.
BioCanteens transfers good practice on sustainable food between cities. It is inspired by actions in Mouans Sartoux (FR), where school canteens serve 100% organic food. The city managed the shift thanks to cost savings from food waste reduction. This was done through "micro good practices", i.e. small actions that are easy to implement. For instance, canteens offer food in portions of various sizes; cooks have been trained; and children sort their food waste, allowing them to grasp how much they throw away. The good practice is now being transferred to six other cities around Europe.
The participants also discussed different ways to address food waste in small groups, focusing on topics such as:
- Local authorities’ role in supporting private entities
- Good practices
- Measuring food waste
Beyond the practical examples and solutions shared during the session, additional resources on the topic include:
- Interact’s keep.eu database with data and statistics on all Interreg projects (food waste examples here)
- Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform that offers policy briefs, news, a vast good practice database, as well as networking and peer learning opportunities
- ESPON website with additional tools, data, research, studies and reports
- Urbact Knowledge Hub that makes the programme’s thematic outputs and knowledge easily available for practitioners and decision makers
Take away message
Reducing food waste can be an economic investment and resource. Locally, fighting food waste can effect the economy, support the development of (new) businesses, develop innovative transformation processes, or support social and economic redistributions. Regions and cities have already implemented initiatives that successfully help to reduce food waste. Cooperation makes them available for others. We can all learn from them.
"The main responsibility for food waste is put on consumers, but we can act at different levels to find innovative solutions to reduce it, between stakeholders, especially with local authorities who also are economic players. Local authorities should direct and broker", Samuel Ferret, Interreg EcoWaste4Food
“Local authorities should be rebels and take bold initiatives towards food waste reduction. Elected representatives have a responsibility to lead the way.” Thibaud Lalanne, URBACT BioCanteens
“Food waste measurement should serve local actions towards food waste reductions. Clear strategies need to be designed by local authorities.” Carlos Tapia Garcia, ESPON CIRCTER