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Food waste is a big deal. The global volume of food waste is estimated to be about 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents,” with the total edible food wasted number coming in at around 1.3 billion tonnes. As for its carbon footprint, food waste racks up an estimated 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year. This is why it’s so important for people to shift the way they think about food. And one country is stepping up to the plate.

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Italy is implementing a series of incentives to help end food waste. Rather than throwing away leftover food, they want businesses that sell food to donate anything unsold to charities.

The bill was met with broad support from all political parties thanks to its outstanding environmental, economic, and moral benefits. The quick approval means they can move on to the next phase of development, which is getting businesses to comply.

And while other countries like France rely on fines to ensure businesses comply, Italy’s approach involves giving garbage collection tax breaks to those who do take part in the initiative. In order for the reward to work correctly, all food donated by businesses must be recorded so the tax break will be easy to implement.

Italy currently spends over $13 billion on waste management, but the new bill promises to reduce that number significantly. Legislators hope to recover 1 billion tonnes of excess food in 2016, up from last year’s total of 550 million tonnes. And while the number is quite ambitious, societies throughout Europe and the U.S. are eager to join in on the efforts.

“The problem is simple — we have food going to waste and poor people who are going hungry,” explained a French politician who is looking to pass an EU-wide proposal to end food waste in all member countries.

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Perhaps one of the biggest cultural changes envisioned by the law is pushing Italians to take advantage of doggy bags to take leftovers home from restaurants. Currently, such a request is rare in Italy.

Under-secretary Barbara Degani believes using the term “family bag” in place of the much-stigmatized “doggy-bag” will go a long way towards shifting people’s perceptions and behaviour. Currently, the notion of taking uneaten food home is viewed as more of an incident request than a virtuous, eco-friendly act.

One of Italy’s most vocal activists on the issue of food waste prevention is Massimo Bottura, who was recently named the best chef in the world. Currently, Bottura’s efforts are focused on the Olympic Games in Rio, where he is setting up an “anti-waste” kitchen and cafeteria in hopes of feeding people who live in Rio’s slums.

While some might view the idea of giving away “food waste” as denigrating to the poor and homeless, believing it suggests they are not worthy of quality food, the reality is that the vast majority of global “food waste” is perfectly edible by the time it makes it into the trash, and something needs to be done.

 


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