France, like every developed country, wastes a ridiculous amount of food: 7.1 million metric tons of food a year. Now, the country is getting tough on supermarkets that are responsible for part of that figure.
Under a new law, its stores will be required–if not to conserve food–then to at least waste it more responsibly. The law requires stores either to give away food to charity (if it’s edible) or pass it on for animal feed, compost, and bioenergy.
France’s dirigiste approach is more radical than other countries that have left supermarkets alone. There are certainly lots of cases of supermarkets doing already what the law requires–like this British chain that produces biogas to run its stores. But they haven’t been mandated by government.
The law was the brainchild of Arash Derambarsh, a local councilor in the Parisian commune of Courbevoie. According to the Guardian, he was peeved that local supermarkets were wasting food that could to feeding the homeless and the poor, in some cases deliberately “bleaching” food so it couldn’t be eaten after its sell-by-dates.
“There’s an absolute urgency–charities are desperate for food. The most moving part of this law is that it opens us up to others who are suffering,” Center Right Deputy Yves Jégo told parliament. “This concerns our compatriots who suffer daily, which is intolerable in the 21st century,” said Guillaume Garon, the socialist who sponsored the bill. Under the new law, supermarkets will be required to sign contracts with charities or face fines of up to €75,000 ($82,000).
Supermarkets themselves are against the new requirements, pointing out that many work with charities anyway and that consumers waste far more food than supermarkets do. They have a point–though the law doesn’t sound so onerous that they should have a hard time following it.