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Food Waste Around the World, Episode 29: 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 Arianna from Venice, Italy!

"Many people from other countries perceive the Netherlands to be the best where green matters. In reality, I was shocked because I think that the food waste problem is more significant than in Italy."


Welcome and thank you for participating in this interview series ‘Food Waste Around The World’. To start, could you tell me a bit about yourself and where you are from?

My name is Arianna. I am from an area near Venice, Italy. I obtained a Master's degree in sustainability, more specifically, Environment and Resource Management at the VU in Amsterdam. I have just graduated. I would say that sustainability is my life and that is why I am at the Sapient. I want to build my future in a career in sustainability.

Okay, great. Tell me about the situation with food waste in Italy. How important is it? Is it a big problem there?

Yes, I think it is, just like in many Western countries. Before this interview, I read that each person in Italy wastes 700 grams of food per week. This is a significant number. This contribution to waste is, of course, both by the supermarkets and households. People waste too much food. I think this is a problem for all Western countries. We are used to exploiting and throwing away everything because it is disposable for us.

You also lived in the Netherlands. So you are aware of this food waste problem here. Could you compare the situation in Italy to that in the Netherlands?

Many people from other countries perceive the Netherlands to be the best where green matters. In reality, I was shocked because I think that the food waste problem is more significant than in Italy. I don't know about the exact numbers. Nevertheless, if I look at, for example, in supermarkets, there are so many ready meals that are most probably to be thrown away at the end of every day. It's a shame to go to the supermarket and to see how much food is prepared. But the good thing is that many organisations are tackling the problem here. Probably, there is more movement in that direction compared to Italy.

In Italy, who is responsible for raising awareness and providing information to people? Does the initiative come from NGOs or the government?

I think that it is mostly businesses and social businesses that want to tackle this problem, not so much comes from the government. I hope that the government will focus much more on these types of issues; green issues. In Italy, it is mostly social businesses, that address this. The most exciting thing is that it comes a lot from students. For example, I feel that young people are the most environmentally conscious at the moment because of the FridaysForFuture movement. I see so much action in that direction, and I suppose that the government could do much more with it.

What could you tell about specific initiatives? You said something about the students. Is there a student organisation?

Yes, I have found one called the Spreco Zero, which means Zero Waste in Italian. It is an awareness-raising campaign on the theme of food waste, which is sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment. So that's good. Besides this, many mayors of the big cities are involved in, and support, these initiatives. The campaign promotes ‘food waste day’, and also many Italian intellectuals are participating.

Where is it located? Is it in the North of Italy? Close to Venice?

I think it's national because I see that it is promoted by the mayors of Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples, Bologna, and even many small towns.

Okay, do you think that the government will do more things in the future? Do they have it on their agenda?

I am a bit pessimistic about it. I feel that, not just in Italy but in general, environmental problems are being discussed. Even so, it is not acted upon by all governments. They always have environmental issues and sustainability on their lips, but they don't translate their words into action. It is not a priority on their agendas. Often, they focus much more on things like the economy, for example. I hope they will surprise me. I do not think they have a lot about it in their programme right now. Also, the world is absorbed by the Coronavirus crisis. That is currently in the foreground in our news. So, I think the government is thinking about that at the moment.

And in your opinion, what can be done to improve the situation?

I do not know. I think that much can be done with educating people. I've read many articles about it, and people are much more environmentally conscious than we think. However, sometimes they do not know what to do in order not to waste. They also have habits they do not know about, which are toxic in terms of food waste the environment. So, I think that education and prevention are fundamental in that sense. That is where the government should come in. There is a need for many more food waste organisations as well. Before this interview, I looked for some organisations online, and I could not find many. That is a big problem. I think it is not acted upon, or if it is, it is not publicised. I believe many projects should be created and promoted in general by both the public and the private sector.

That's it, I think. Thank you very much for your participation!


Interviewer: Anastasia Arkhipova

Interviewed: Arianna Bunello

Organisations mentioned in the interview: Spreco Zero, Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea(IMELS)

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