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Touché – France lays down law on supermarket food waste

New laws in France requiring supermarkets to redistribute surplus food have prompted debate on whether we should follow suit in Scotland.

Iain Gulland | 2 Jun 15

It is great to see the issue of food waste getting attention.   However, in truth, similar legal obligations already exist in Scotland.  Under our waste regulations, all businesses must apply the waste hierarchy, which prioritises re-use and recycling over disposal.  So food businesses should be routinely redistributing their edible surplus for human consumption, where it is safe to do so, by law. 

Responding to calls for action on surplus food, the Scottish Retail Consortium highlighted that many of its members are voluntarily passing good food to charitable retribution schemes.   But under Duty of Care this isn’t voluntary – it is a legal obligation.

There’s an important issue here regarding the Duty of Care and how it is applied.  Some may argue that the waste hierarchy is an ‘old money’ approach that is being overtaken by circular economy thinking.  But the fact that it is enshrined in law should be a key enabler for better resource management decisions.   I’m interested to know if the apparent gap in understanding here is a communications thing, or if it needs clearer regulatory guidance.

Of course, waste prevention is at the top of the hierarchy, and on the food waste issue, Zero Waste Scotland believes our priority should be to avoid wasting so much in the first place.

This is a complex area, with a number of factors, from lifestyles, consumer behaviour and market demands all at play.  But just because it is hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle it.

Our work spans the supply chain, promoting less wasteful practices in manufacturing, via Resource Efficient Scotland, in retail and hospitality, via UK voluntary agreements, at home via Love Food Hate Waste.

To be successful, waste prevention needs system-wide approaches.  Schemes like FareShare do amazing work, but their existence is symptomatic of wastefulness throughout the food system.  Campaigners are right to point out that relying on surplus to feed those in need is not a truly sustainable solution.  We should strive to end both food poverty and food waste, independently of one another, for an environmentally and socially just Scotland.

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