Food Waste Around the World, Episode 18: Italy
Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Alice, from Italy, Sicily!
“I remember people having a bite and throwing away the rest - it was like this literally every day. I also remember asking the employees to please pay attention and be more considerate about this issue.”
Hi Alice, thank you for participating in our project ‘Food Waste Around the World'. Let’s start by hearing a little bit about yourself.
I'm Alice, I am from Italy, and moved to the Netherlands five years ago. It's actually a funny story because I was supposed to stay in the Netherlands for a month, and I was supposed to go back to Italy, and then I wanted to go to live in Australia. But after two weeks that I was living in Amsterdam I fell in love with the city, I called my family and I said sorry I'm not coming back. So I stayed in the Netherlands, totally fell in love with the city and I loved how multicultural, it was, which is still the thing I like most about this city. I worked in different jobs. I wanted to start a career in project management, and I saw an opportunity at Sapient so I applied as I’m also very interested in the environment and food waste issues. And as for myself, I have many interests, maybe too much. I'm very interested in music, singing, and also playing. I'm a ceramist, so I make pottery. And I read a lot of books and I like art a lot. I also like embroidery so all kinds of art that you use your hands, pretty much.
That’s a very cool story! Can you tell us more about what is happening in Italy? Do you think that food waste is a big issue there?
When I was living in Italy I never had a feeling that it was a big issue, because in Italy we don’t have a habit of wasting food. Especially in families with older people. Grandmothers tend to not waste anything because they come from a time where they didn't have much food. We were not wealthy in Italy, so grandmothers basically teach you how to not waste anything, and pass their knowledge through generations. But then again, I was also reading that in Italy there is definitely a problem with waste. A lot of the food waste comes from the production and distribution process; mostly from schools. This is totally understandable because in Italy we have a huge production of fruits and vegetables. We have perfect weather and productive fields. But unfortunately waste happens at a few levels, as I mentioned. Sometimes, the fruits and vegetables get rejected simply because of their shape and appearance. I remember a friend of mine from Sicily telling me about how in the supermarkets you can see oranges from Sicily sitting on the shelves whereas Spain oranges are being sold out consistently. So, oranges from Sicily are going to waste often just because of their shape.
How about the differences between the countries? Could you notice any differences between Italy compared to the Netherlands regarding food waste?
Well, I know that the Netherlands has a much bigger problem than Italy. I think I even read that the Netherlands is the first country in Europe with the largest amount of food waste. I actually had a bad experience in the Netherlands regarding food waste when I was working in a corporation some years ago. We had a canteen and the food there was terrible, but everybody ate there because it was included in the salary. I remember people having a bite and throwing away the rest - it was like this literally every day. I also remember asking the employees to please pay attention and be more considerate about this issue. And I was thinking if something like that happens in one company, it probably happens in many other companies too. It's very unfortunate.
It’s very unfortunate, indeed. Who is doing the most work about raising awareness about the food waste issue? Is it the government or is it the NGO’s and small communities?
As far as I know more non-governmental associations. We have a huge nonprofit organization in Italy, which is a partnership with 20 other nonprofit organizations. These organizations save food, mainly from the distribution, and they give this food to charity programs. Also, some sanitary products if I'm not mistaken. They're actually doing a lot, almost saving millions of kilos of food and products. So we do have a lot of nonprofit organizations.
Are you aware of any specific initiatives to address food waste in Italy?
Well, the government passed a law about food waste a few years ago, if that's valid. In 2016, the government passed a law to reduce food waste, and to make the process of obtaining excess or saved food easier. I remember a time where it was illegal for supermarkets to donate food for people or to bring them to dog shelters. So I'm really glad that they changed this for the better. And also they started teaching students how to not waste food in schools.
Do you think that the Italian government will do more in the future? Do you think that food waste is a priority on their agenda?
I think absolutely not. Because of COVID-19, the government will have to deal with a huge economical crisis and I think problems like food waste and environmental issues will definitely not have a priority for some time.
At last, What do you think could be the possible next steps to be taken by the different organizations? Do you think it needs to come from the community following a bottom-up approach or top-down from the government?
I personally think that governments should be more involved. If waste happens so much during the production and distribution systems and in schools, it means that it is a government issue, and therefore involved in the public sector. So the government should definitely be more involved, in my opinion.
That's it, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today!
Thank you for having me!
Interviewer: Ceyda Gezbic
Interviewed: Alice Lomanto
Editor and writer: Ceyda Gezbic