Food Waste Around The World, Episode 19: Lithuania
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 Edita, from Lithuania!
“ [Change] cannot start from one end; it has to be from all sides.”
Hi Edita, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today and participating in our project ‘Food Waste Around the World'. Let’s start by hearing a little bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Edita and I'm from Lithuania, but I've been living in the Netherlands for a few years now. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and later on, I came to work in the Netherlands. I became a Team Coordinator but later realized that I didn't want to do this job, so I went back to study. Now, I’m studying Human Resources at Tilburg University, completing this internship as a Talent Coordinator.
It’s great to have you with us! Can you tell us more about what is really happening in Lithuania? Do you think that food waste is a big issue there?
I haven't been living in my country in a few years so my point of view can be a bit outdated. I was searching on the internet about the food waste in Lithuania and I found a lot actually. I found out that it's a little less than European Union countries. I think this is mainly because of economic conditions; people can't afford food that easily so they don't waste as much. Nowadays, Lithuania’s economy is improving, but it also means that bad habits may be coming in terms of food waste. There is a mentality that comes from the Soviet times which makes you save things like food because you’re always feeling like you’re lacking something. The people from villages were always collecting and preserving food for winter, so they would never throw out anything or would rather exchange it with others. So back in the day, there was so little food waste compared to now. Today, it's very easy to just go and buy food from shops all around. So better economical conditions don't always mean everything is better, in fact, it may be worsening food waste.
The mentality was surely different back then. How about the differences between the countries? Could you notice any differences between Lithuania compared to the Netherlands regarding food waste?
I think the Netherlands is a very developed country. This means people earn a lot of money and they can spend more on food and not care because it's not expensive for them. But I think here people are more educated about food waste than in my country. I don't remember much waste during the time I was living in Lithuania. Also, according to my research, I found out that there are institutions that are educating about food waste because many people don't realize that it's up to them to do it. I think economic development plays a big role in the main differences between Lithuania and the Netherlands.
Who is doing the most work about raising awareness on the food waste issue? Is it the government or is it the NGO’s and small communities?
I cannot really say because I found a lot of information about both the governmental and non-governmental institutions working towards the same goal. The problem with NGOs is that they need support from the government which is actually happening. Countries in the EU are obliged until 2030 to reduce waste in half. So Lithuania, therefore, needs to obey these rules and reduce their waste. That's why the government is helping. For example, there are NGOs for food banks that are working for much smaller, NGOs. So I think it comes from both sides.
Are you aware of any specific initiatives to address food waste in Lithuania?
I know the food bank that I mentioned before when I was living in my country. I didn't really know that they were also helping with food waste. I thought you could donate food for people in need but they are also helping and cooperating with other shops by collecting and donating expiring foods. So I think this is the main institution that helps. A lot of Universities also focus research on food waste and look for solutions to raise awareness among citizens.
I found that generally, in Europe people understand that they're responsible for food waste. Compared to Lithuania, 80% of people are aware that they can save food whereas in Lithuania it's only 40%. And most of the food is being wasted at home, so people don't really understand that it's their fault. So those kinds of institutions are educating people about food waste.
Do you think that the Lithuanian government will do more in the future? Do you think that food waste is a priority on their agenda?
Well, I don't think it's a priority because they would have to do a lot more. However, I think they will continue their efforts as I mentioned. They need to obey the rules and also we get funded for those activities so I think they will definitely continue to care about food waste.
At last, What do you think could be the possible next steps to be taken by the different organisations? Do you think it needs to come from the community following a bottom-up approach or top-down from the government?
I think it has to be both. Because if you don't get support from the government it's quite hard to manage and establish change. And of course, you have to get people to help you. It cannot start from one end; it has to be from all sides.
That's it, thank you so much for participating!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity!
Interviewer: Ceyda Gezbic
Interviewed: Edita Laukineityte
Editor and writer: Ceyda Gezbic