Question: Should Ireland follow France and ban disposal of waste food by supermarkets?

Tesco says it donates over 1.5 million meals or 677 tonnes of surplus food from its stores

Want not waste not: “It would be great to see a similar law introduced in Ireland, however, establishing a scalable and sustainable model for redistribution of that surplus food,” says Iseult Wood of Food Cloud.  Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Want not waste not: “It would be great to see a similar law introduced in Ireland, however, establishing a scalable and sustainable model for redistribution of that surplus food,” says Iseult Wood of Food Cloud. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

 

How many not-quite-past-it food items will you throw in the bin this weekend before heading straight to the supermarket to restock the fridge and every cupboard?

Irish households reportedly spend about €700 million a year on food that ultimately gets dumped. About a million tonnes of food is thrown out by Irish businesses and consumers each year. Globally, figures suggest about 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted.

And while householders and businesses here must now comply with regulations on the disposal and recycling of food waste, France this week became the first country to pass a law to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying food.

It follows a campaign led by shoppers and anti-poverty campaigners and ultimately led to a petition and the passing of a Bill through the national assembly. The campaigners are hoping other EU countries will follow suit.

A law may not yet be on the cards here, but more than 350 charities around Ireland receive food donations every week from one major supermarket chain through an innovative project known as FoodCloud.

Participating businesses can upload details of their surplus food and the time period in which the food can be collected using an app or via the FoodCloud website.

A text message is automatically sent to the most appropriate charities and the first charity to accept the offer collects it from the business.

In July 2014, Tesco became the first Irish retailer to commit to donating all its surplus food to local charities and community groups through the social partnership. These include homeless charities, meals on wheels delivery services and weekly socialising dinners for older people. Some 20,000 meals a week are donated in communities across Ireland.

Tesco said it had donated over 1.5 million meals or 677 tonnes of surplus food from its stores. It said it would continue to lead in the reduction of food waste in retail in Ireland and globally.

FoodCloud said Ireland was the first country to begin moving towards “holistic solutions” for surplus food. Iseult Ward, chief executive, said: “It would be great to see a similar law introduced in Ireland, however, establishing a scalable and sustainable model for redistribution of that surplus food has its challenges and there's work to do to ensure the infrastructure is in place to support charities in availing of this food.” Ms Wood said investment would be required in transport and vehicles so charities could collect food. Bigger freezers for storing would be needed.