Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle's project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. Designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries, it aims at understanding how the issue is tackled and perceived around the world. The project is made possible thanks to SapientSEE, the mother company of Food Circle, that every year offers internships to students from all around the world, creating a uniquely multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Silvia from Romania!
“[...]about 2.55 million tons of food are wasted every year. It means that each person is throwing away around 129 kg of food annually.”
Hi Silvia. Thank you for participating in this interview series. To start, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, and where are you from?
Hello, I'm Silvia, and I am from Romania. I first came to the Netherlands to do my Master's in Organizational Psychology. Then I moved to Amsterdam to finish my studies with an internship. Currently, I am a member of the Talent Department for the Healthy and Affordable project at Sapient Social & Environmental Enterprises. I've always been interested in the environment and making a change for a better future. So, that is why I'm concerned about reducing food waste.
Nice. How is the food waste situation in Romania? Is that a big issue?
Right now, the food waste situation in Romania is not that good. I recently found out that about 2.55 million tons of food are wasted every year. It means that each person is throwing away around 129 kg of food annually. Most of the waste is cooked food, fruits, vegetables and baked goods. In Romania, we waste almost as much food as the whole of European average even though our income is much lower! I find this disturbing.
At the moment, I think the most significant issue related to food waste in Romania is people’s lack of awareness around this issue. They’re uninformed about the consequences, and buy much more products than they need. In my opinion, this behaviour is related to our culture. We like to have large meals even if we know we can't eat it. In restaurants, for example, portions tend to be much larger than anyone can eat, so plates often get sent back full and leftovers are thrown away.
We also eat a lot of bread with every meal. Since bread doesn't last very long, it ends up in the trash most of the time. This is mostly the case for cities, but it changes when looking at rural areas. For instance, my grandparents live in the countryside and buy bread almost every day. The bread they don't eat is fed to chickens, so it doesn’t get wasted.
How would you compare the way food waste is perceived between Romania and here in the Netherlands?
I noticed that in the Netherlands, there are more organisations that target this issue, and people in general seem to be more aware and active. Moreover, more attention is given to waste management and recycling in general. In my country, recycling is neither very popular nor practised.
In your home country, which communication channels draw the most attention on the food waste issue? TV, newspapers or is it more a discussion at the community level?
I think it's a TV but not as much as it should be. Some organisations try to raise awareness through workshops taught in schools. Maybe, the next generations will get the chance of being more educated about that.
And these organisations that you mentioned are they governmental, NGOs or independent groups?
I don't know exactly; what I know for sure is that food waste-related non-governmental organisations exist. The government doesn't do much about this issue.
Okay, I see. Is there any particular NGO which you're familiar with?
I know about the Bucharest Food Bank, which was established in 2016 and that supported the development of other Food Banks in Romania. Their mission is to collect food from private businesses and retailers to then give it to people in need. For example, people with disabilities, abused women, or people in poverty.
Yeah, that's really interesting. So it's mostly the food banks that are handling the problem. And which age group do you think is more aware of food waste-related issues, the younger or the older generation?
I think that in the era of information, the younger generation is providing most of its awareness. But that's just my opinion. However, after researching further, I found that the people throwing away most of the food are under 35 years old. That was an unexpected discovery for me because I had the impression that young people would be more eager in taking action since they have more access to information about the damaging consequences of food waste.
That's an interesting point. You mentioned some initiatives at the community level, but do you think that your country pays enough attention to the issue of food waste overall?
I think that currently there is not enough attention and visibility of this issue. People are just not aware that this is a real problem and about its consequences. But I believe that in the future, things will slowly change because as I said, I already notice some actions aimed at educating young people.
Yeah. What else do you think could be done in your country to improve the situation? Maybe something that you've seen during your stay in the Netherlands which could be applied back at home?
I suppose there could be more organisations to deal with the problem and raise awareness about it. Plus, at the governmental level, laws and regulations should be adjusted to directly address and look for solutions for food waste.
Absolutely. Anything else that you would like to add? Maybe some interesting facts discovered by you?
As I said, I was surprised to find that the majority of people who throw food away are highly educated. Usually, you would expect these people to be also the most informed and concerned. But I think that's because education is not focused on food waste. Maybe another reason is that since more intelligent persons usually earn more money they can spend more on produce while they can afford to throw it away as well.
Okay, that would be it then. Thank you very much.
Thanks for having me!
Interviewer: Imaan Faruqui
Interviewed: Silvia Szabo
Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo
Reviewer: Ludovica Viva
The organisation mentioned in the interview: https://www.foodbank6.ro/en