Check against delivery.
Ladies and Gentlemen, likeminded friends,
I am delighted to be here today to discuss an issue, which is very close to my heart and on which I invested a lot of political energy: food waste.
Food waste is not only unethical, it is a shameful waste of natural and economic resources, an absurd contradiction in terms for which there is no longer space in our Union.
88 million tonnes of food is wasted in the EU every year. At the same time, 55 million people can't afford a quality meal.
European countries struggle to fund public healthcare. At the same time, they throw away EUR 143 billion in food waste.
Every year, another 80 million people will feed off the planet. At the same time, our resources are already overstretched.
This morning, you have discussed about the cost of food waste, the impact and the inconsistencies.
Yet we've also heard some inspiring stories and creative solutions to manage this increasingly important challenge.
It is a pleasure to conclude this session with some reflections on EU policy and the tools we have made available to encourage change and address food waste.
Let me begin by recalling our common food waste goal: to halve food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030, to reduce food losses across the production and supply chains.
We have all signed up to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals and we have a duty to deliver our commitments.
To achieve this goal we need to take urgently a different tack.
We need to rethink how we produce, market, distribute and consume food, work together at every level, encourage change: individuals and households, producers, processors and policy makers at local, regional, national and European level.
To do this, we need new and better tools.
The Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted by the European Commission in 2015, has raised the profile of food waste – made it an integral part of the circular economy package, linked it to a series of initiatives.
Last May, we adopted revised EU waste legislation. It marked an important milestone introducing, for the first time, specific measures to prevent and reduce food waste.
The new rules mean Member States must prepare and publish by 2019 food waste prevention programmes, addressing they whole supply chain. They must also monitor and report on food waste levels. In a word we introduced a crucial new notion of reducing, monitoring and reporting.
They also introduce a broad definition for food waste.
Based on this, the Commission is preparing - with Member States and using the results of the EU funded project FUSION - a common EU measurement methodology, to be adopted by March 2019 together with a legal act defining the format for reporting data. The idea is very simple: “what is measureable is also manageable”.
The new measurements will generate consistent data on food waste levels throughout the EU which will be combined with the results of the global food waste and food losses protocols and Eurostat statistics. First reporting by Member States is foreseen in 2022. And here I would like to stress that even though the EU focus is at this stage more on food waste, food losses will also be part of the equation as clearly mentioned in the memorandum on the subject that we have signed last year with the FAO.
Based on this data, the Commission will consider establishing EU-wide food waste reduction targets, to be met by 2030. Whilst SDG 12.3 represents the EU's overall goal, it is not a legally binding target today.
Other important progress includes the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, which I decided to set up in 2016.
This unique forum brings together all key actors from the public and private sector, from farm to fork, to catalyse progress at EU level.
The Platform and its four sub-groups help the Commission to deliver the Circular Economy Action Plan. It encourages concrete action and cooperation at all levels of the food chain.
With support from the Platform, the Commission has adopted EU guidelines to support food donation in Member States.
They clarify how EU rules apply to food donation - for donors and receivers - and promote common interpretation by regulatory authorities.
Surplus food that is safe should, as a priority, be made available to people in need. At the moment, it is often easier – and sometimes cheaper - to waste than give it away. This is simply unacceptable.
You heard this morning about the Italian project, NOW (No more Organic Waste) - a great example to promote the prevention, recovery and recycling of organic food waste through organised re-distribution
The results have been impressive:
- 1 500 tonnes of food recovered and donated to local stakeholders;
- 26 supermarkets involved;
- 70 charities benefitting;
- 5 000 people receiving food, every week.
We need to expand such actions all over Europe. The new EU guidelines should encourage this.
A 3-year EU pilot project to support sharing and uptake of the guidelines is also underway, working with Platform members to support food redistribution.
Furthermore in April, the Commission adopted EU guidelines on the possible use of former foodstuffs as animal feed – all food, for example broken biscuits, which is safe to eat but no longer marketable for human consumption.
Our aim is to valorise such food resources to avoid sending them to waste treatment.
Last but not least the Commission is actively examining ways to improve date marking.
Consumer awareness and understanding of the terms "best before" and "use by" varies significantly between Member States.
A 2015 Eurobarometer survey found that only 37% of consumers in Hungary could correctly define "best before" yet the figure was much higher in Sweden – 68%.
It highlights a need for action, to ensure terms are correctly understood and the associated waste reduced, and that they are applied consistently across EU countries.
They are crucial for food supply chain management. These dates guide consumer choice and use of foods.
As a next step, a subgroup of the EU Platform on food waste will develop a coordinated action plan on date marking.
It will begin by developing scientific and technical guidance, to support more consistent date marking practices. In addition the Commission recent proposal on unfair practises is trying to address some of the commercial choices which are sometimes the direct or indirect source of food waste. I really hope that in the legislative negotiation the European Parliament and the Council will follow us on this route.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On any food waste initiative, it is important we work together, that we share experience and business cases, repeat successful models and scale-up initiatives where they can make significant difference.
The Commission has started to collect best practice examples through the EU Platform. Based on this, it will adopt recommendations for action at all stages of the food supply chain.
Meetings such as this help build our collective knowledge and shape more sustainable systems.
Thanks to digital technology and networks, launched in 2017, we can share what we learn, quickly: which initiatives work, which don't, and what they've achieved.
We can support each other in positive change.
Mobilising individual awareness and responsibility is an important part of this.
The UK's TRiFOCAL project is a great example to inspire behavioural change through an integrated communication campaign and a holistic approach to food waste:
· preventing it at consumer level through better planning,
· promoting healthy and sustainable food choices,
· encouraging recycling of unavoidable food waste.
More generally we need to stop the traditional pattern of production, use and discard and move into a real and concrete Circular Bioeconomy.
And here I would like to praise the other two projects FLAW4LIFE and FISH SCALE which, with their work in the areas of consumers and commercial attitude towards ‘ugly food’ and ‘neglected fish species’ are exactly addressing the need for this change.
I wish you every success and look forward to seeing the results.
Finally, a point on funding.
While reducing food waste can save money, investments are needed to get the ball rolling.
Business case reports show that for every $1 companies invest to reduce food loss and waste, they save $14 in operating costs, simply by integrating food waste prevention into their business model
At EU level, support for food waste initiatives is available from several funding streams as well the support for the most deprived persons. The LIFE programme is one example.
Other opportunities exist under EU research and innovation funds, for example, the REFRESH Program under Horizon 2020, regional funds and under the Common Agricultural Policy. And I regret that the Common Fishery Policy has not been able to show the same level of commitment vis-à-vis food waste.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fighting food waste is one of my political priorities.
But none of us can do it alone. We must all play our part - at global, EU, national, regional, local and individual levels.
National authorities must establish an environment that gives clarity for the use of food resources, and incentives for food waste prevention.
They must ensure implementation of food waste monitoring at national level by 2020. This is critical to assess the effectiveness of measures and EU progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
I am just back from New York, where - in the context of the United Nations General Assembly - I have attended a meeting of the Food Waste high level network called Champions 12.3. In the conclusions we agreed that one of the future challenges is to move away from the “sylos mentality” and put in network all the wonderful various projects which are happening on the ground. I call this ‘the network of networks’, the best way, in my opinion, to ensure that the fight against food waste increases speed and effectiveness to bring us closer to the achievement of the SDG 12.3.
We need to work together to develop innovative approaches, new business models, encourage cooperation between different actors, inspire change in individuals and households.
We all agree, wasting food is senseless. We all agree the contradictions, the inconsistencies in food waste are senseless.
Events such as todays are an important part of the process towards healthier and more sustainable food systems. Let's keep this dialogue going and work on it together.