Food Waste Around the World, Episode 25: France
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 uniquely multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Augustine from France!
".....almost 10 million tons of food are wasted every year, which is an unimaginable quantity. Surprisingly enough, the majority of wasted food comes from the agricultural sector."
Hello Augustine! Welcome to this interview and thank you for participating in the project ‘Food Waste Around the World’. To start, could you tell me about yourself and where you are from?
Hello, my name is Augustine, but you can call me Augie. I am originally from France, where I have lived most of my life. I did my Bachelor’s degree in Amsterdam and my Master’s degree in France, but I’m currently based in Amsterdam for my internship at Sapient.
Very nice! Could you describe the food waste situation in France? Is it a big issue?
It is a big issue. I found out that almost 10 million tons of food are wasted every year, which is an unimaginable quantity. Surprisingly enough, the majority of wasted food comes from the agricultural sector. This happens because some products don’t look good enough to put them in the market because of regulations and restrictions about it.
You said that you are currently living in Amsterdam. Do you notice differences in what you see in France compared to the Netherlands, concerning food waste?
I come from a very small city in France where I could buy my products from small local markets. Amsterdam, as a big city, has several initiatives that are dealing with food waste, like Taste Before You Waste, where I volunteered. On a social scale, I would say that the food waste topic is more commonly discussed. The structural organization of the city is more efficient in terms of preventing food loss. Also, I think the garbage collection is more organized.
I noticed the same. Are there any NGOs, organizations or small communities dealing with the food waste issue in France?
There are a few initiatives, rather than big organizations. There is a very nice initiative called ‘Frigos Solidaire’: restaurants, grocery shops, bakeries can share a fridge with any kind of food, so people in need can take it. There are currently 50 Frigos Solidaires in France. Unfortunately, there is no big scene where you can be involved and give your contribution. This is what I noticed when I went back to France.
That’s a nice initiative! What about the government, is it doing anything to tackle this issue?
The last action I remember, regarding food waste, was in 2013 when they launched a new law to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfills. The law was supposed to reduce food waste and also redefine which fruits and vegetables and general products should be put on the market to reduce food loss.
Since then, the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy and Sustainable Development has required the private sector to recycle their organic waste if they produce more than 120 tons of it per year. However, this amount has been lowered gradually to include not just supermarkets and agri-food firms, but also companies in the hospitality and food service sector.
It’s not easy to evaluate how effective these regulations are. Are the media driving attention to the food waste issue?
Tackling the impact of media representation can be very relative to the medium we focus on. Overall, I would say that mainstream media is not informing people enough about this issue. It has, however, received increasing attention on social media, where environmental issues connected to food waste and sustainability are more readily discussed.
Do you think that, in the future, the food waste issue will become a priority in the government's agenda?
I surely hope so, but, with the current global situation, I think other issues will be prioritized and the food waste issue will be left behind.
I see that is a risk. Lastly, what do you think should be the next step taken by individual groups or organizations?
I think the next good step could be to create a strong social structure that is going to change legislation and implement new measures to find a way to incentivize sustainable consumption so that it becomes a priority.
Sometimes organizations are very small. Even if they do a great job they aren't able to engage a sufficient number of people who take action and that's a shame because we could make a big difference.
Yes, that’s true. Thank you very much, Augie!
Thank you for having me!
Interviewer: Andrea Di Bernardo
Interviewed: Augustine Hacques
Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo
The organization mentioned in the interview: Frigos Solidaires