Food Waste Around the World, Episode 42: Poland
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 Emilia from Poland!
But first, let’s add some context
Did you know that the meaning behind the name Poland is “The Land of Fields”, (Ampoleagle, 2022) and that, when we talk about size, Poland is the 9th largest country in Europe? Even if it might be quite hard to believe, Poland is bigger than countries such as Italy and the UK. Still, it is not just the size or the name of the country that are impressive. Poland is recognized for its amazing culture and traditions. Also for building the first upside-down house ever. Interesting, right?
Nevertheless, even though there are many impressive aspects concerning this country, there are still things Poland does not excel at. One of them is the food waste issue. Unfortunately, the “Land of fields” has been ranked as the top 5 biggest contributors of food waste in Europe with around 235kg of food wasted per capita annually. (Ślusarczyk, B & Machowska, E., 2019, #)
The good part is that they are planning to have a strong waste prevention programme. High hopes are being put on this and the country is expecting their food waste to decrease significantly.
Their aim is to cover most of the sectors, including Agriculture, private and public consumption. The programme itself consists of 14 recommended actions listed according to their priorities. The total anticipated costs for the project, which will be paid by the Polish Government sum up to 94.8 million PLN. Still. It is expected to have outstanding results, hopefully, making all the effort worth it.
Now, before looking up the pictures of the upside-down house, enjoy the insights provided by a native polish person, Emilia. (Directive by the European Parliament, 2008)
Hello, Emilia! Welcome and thank you for participating in the project ‘Food Waste Around the World’. Before we start, could you tell me about yourself and where you are from?
Hi! My name is Emilia Koziel and I come from Katowice, Poland and I am currently studying Economics at Aarhus University in Denmark. It is a pleasure for me to contribute a bit to your project. I was involved in several environment-oriented actions before, from the local ones focused on saving our forests from trash to volunteering in LeoxEnvironment, where we were planting trees and raising awareness in the area of deforestation, fires and pollution as well.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about the situation of food waste in Poland. How would you say the situation with food waste is in your country?
According to the reports from the Federation of Polish Food Banks, it is not good - we are one of the European countries that waste the most (top 5). In Poland, around 9 millions tons of food are wasted every year. (Ślusarczyk, B & Machowska, E., 2019, #) The most common reason for families to throw out food is that it goes bad or that the expiry date passed (although many of us still eat that). Another sector generating the shameful amount of food being thrown out is the industry and supermarkets. The reason is the law that almost prevents industry from donating the food, creating much paperwork and other obstacles - you cannot just donate the food, you need to tell where it goes and how it is going to be used, fulfill many strict regulations and be ready for a control. No wonder, that the easiest and the cheapest option that supermarkets choose is to throw the food away. There are very few institutions that can take the food and share it further - for example Caritas, which is a religion-based organization. The food cannot be donated to child care homes and other places, where people are in need.
In your country who is really driving the attention or raising the awareness on the food waste issue? Is it the government or are they NGO’s and small communities?
The main focus of our government is usually somewhere else, on ‘other issues worth more attention’. The mass media also sit quietly. Social media does the work here, but as you may realize, not many people want to listen or read about the topic.
Are you aware of any of these initiatives to address food waste undertaken by the private sector in Poland ?
Unfortunately, as mentioned before, people with initiative have this hard in my country. However there are some trends like freeganism that go viral on the internet. It has earned its claim to fame especially among students, but even older people see this as a way of life. It bases on ‘hunting’ for food left by supermarkets outside, at night, before it will be picked up and thrown away. You could be surprised what treasures you can find there, without any signs of spoilage, and completely for free!
Another way of saving both money and food is the Too Good To Go app - it is still developing, packages are mostly available in bigger cities. It is not as popular as it is in Denmark, where the idea originates from, but I hope it will become.
Since currently, the main driver behind this cause is mostly the people on social media, do you think that in the future the government will eventually consider stepping in?
I hope that the more of us speak, the louder our voice is and eventually the government will realize that there is space to act, to change the law and raise awareness. However, it will not happen right now - we have greater issues arising on the horizon.
Are there any specific differences in what you see in your country compared to Denmark? According to food waste?
There are, actually. I live in a dorm and take part in some dinners organized by Danes, so I had plenty of occasions to see how it is done here. Hearing all the Danish talk about sustainability, I could not believe my eyes how the reality looks like. What hurts me the most is that they tend to throw away food that is not spoiled - if we did not manage to eat everything, why not to pack and take it home or to share? Here it just goes straight to the bin and no one turns a blind eye. Sometimes they do not feel like eating something and just get rid of it. In Poland and other Slavic countries I know, food is like sacrum, it is something that connects people, preparing food is a way to show your affection. We know a lot about how to prevent the food from spoiling, how to remake something, creating another dish from an old one. Of course, sometimes we do not manage, but at least we try to. Here, where there is abundance of food, I feel like people stopped respecting it that much. I will just stress once again, that this is what I observed.
Overall, what is your opinion regarding the subject? Should people be concerned about food waste? Is it an emergency?
Yes, it is an emergency, especially with the situation right now - galloping inflation, COVID hits, and now the war. Ukraine was one of the biggest food suppliers, so the crisis in this area was unavoidable. More and more people are starving and living in poverty, so those who can have a full plate should think before they decide to throw something away - there is always a way to deal with it better.
Perfect. Okay, that would be it. Thank you very much.
Interviewed: Emilia Koziel
Interviewer: Anda Codreanu
Writer: Anda Codreanu
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