When speaking of food, one of the most crucial components of the Italian nationality is involved: in Italy, meals are almost “sacred”. However, our approach to food as a good is not always respectful enough. waste

How often are we haunted by the doubt that we haven’t served a satisfying amount of food when we host a dinner? As a rule, we end up with a mass of leftovers that will be sufficient for the rest of the week: a series of courses that our guests -way too full – did not manage to eat and, in all likelihood, will be tossed in the bin.

Excess to impress

The point is that we can be perfect hosts without preparing a wedding reception every time we have guests: today we are used to such a wide availability of food that excess is no longer considered a ruinous side effect, but a natural, reasonable consequence. In Italy, 65 kilos of food per person are wasted every year: a disturbing figure, which should make us realise that throwing away day-old spaghetti or a tomato guiltily let go rotten in the fridge is not so natural and reasonable.

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According to a survey by Coldiretti/Ixè, the family bag (a box we can fill with the leftovers from a meal at the restaurant, whose existence most people are not even aware of), is appreciated by just 36% of Italians: indeed, a lot of people think that bringing home the food they left uneaten would make them look like beggars. Exactly like in the case of the exaggerated dinner party, we are faced with a behaviour which is not dictated by common sense, but by a sort of sick pride.

The world is starving

Meanwhile, 795 million people (one out of nine!) have not the necessary nourishment to support themselves.

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Nevertheless, food waste is a usual phenomenon even in less developed countries. Here, a huge quantity of food deteriorates before being eaten because of poor hygiene, preservation and transport conditions.

In the so-called Global North, on the contrary, we should treasure -not abuse- food availability, considering that most of the waste comes from our own homes. Our everyday choices are not isolated events, but rather form part of a broader cultural order, and yet there is no need to turn our habits upside-down: instead, it is fundamental to be conscious that our behaviours have a substantial impact on the overall system.

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Italian law No 166-2016 against food waste (and more)

On 14 September 2016, in Italy, Law No 166/2016 (GU 30 August 2016) entered into force: conceived to limit waste by reducing refuse in each stage (production, transformation, distribution and management), it regulates the donations of food and medicines.

The text highlights some priorities to be pursued:

  1. Promote the reclamation and the donation of food and/or medicines surplus for charity;
  2. Limit negative impact on the environment and on natural resources, reducing the production of refuse and promoting reuse and recycle to extend the life cycle of the products;
  3. Inform and raise awareness (above all among the young) of the problem;
  4. Reduce the amount of the biodegradable waste going to dump (in accordance with the objectives of the “National Plan for the prevention of food waste” and the “National Programme for the prevention of waste”).

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According to the law, the goods that fit for human consumption need to be given to the most deprived people, while the rest can be used to compost or to feed animals: the list includes foodstuffs and agricultural products left unsold or rejected from the supply chain (due to commercial reasons or because they’re about to expire) and those which exceeded the date of minimum durability (assuming that the package is intact and the product has been stored properly).

Lastly, local administrations can reduce taxes on waste for those who support the initiative.

The need for an “ethical” planning

The Western world cannot afford to take food supply for granted. Not only from an ethical point of view (2 billion people could benefit from the food wasted globally every year, about 1.3 billion tons), but also for economic reasons: we literally throw away 12.5 billion (12,500,000,000 €!) euros per year because of food waste.

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Today, raising awareness about this issue is essential. Our priority must be the respect for resources, not -by way of example- saving a few cents to buy huge amounts of cheap products that exceed our real needs.

JUPE & PENNY

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