While supermarkets in France are now legally forced to donate their unsold food, Estonian laws currently neither promote nor oppose such practices, according to a spokeswoman for the retail operator Rimi.
The French national assembly recently voted in support of a new law that forces supermarkets to donate expired and unspoilt food to charities, animal feed or compost. Shops that exceed a footprint of 400 square meters will have to sign contracts to donate their food surplus or face penalties.
The French government is working towards halving national food waste by 2025, with similar laws to be introduced in educational institutions. The new laws have seen support from environmental activists, charities and food organizations alike.
The European Union wastes around 50 percent of its food as a whole, with Estonia facing similar statistics on a national scale, Katrin Bats, spokeswoman for the Baltic retail operator Rimi, told ERR. Rimi, which operates as a subsidiary of the Swedish chain ICA in all three Baltic states, throws away around 1,600 tonnes of food every year.
Bats stressed that while shops in Estonia write off around 5 percent of their food, the figure rises to a whopping 42 percent in Estonian households.
"I think that currently in Estonia retailers have a much clearer view of the great cost of food waste in comparison to individual households. As retailers we know exactly how much food we need to order. It's a strategical question we face daily. Generally we do need to consider a surplus, as clients also expect goods to be available in the evenings. Therefore, we always order a little bit more," Bats explained.
Bats added that Estonian laws currently neither directly promote nor oppose donating food.
"As of today, Rimi has contracts with the Food Bank and the Red Cross, we're doing all we can to ensure minimal food waste," she said, adding that Rimi had also joined the campaign "Feeding 100,000", an effort backed by the British Embassy in Tallinn.
"Quite recently we have also addressed the Prime Minister in hopes of increasing the efficacy of food donations by making sure that laws regulating such practices are unambiguous. And of course there are chains that could take food donations into further consideration," Bats noted.
The average Estonian household currently throws away 20 kilograms and 120 euros worth of food each year, amounting to an annual total of 63 million euros in food waste on a national scale. Food waste in Estonia is primarily attributable to households (42 percent), followed by the food processing industry (39 percent), catering services (14 percent) and retail services (5 percent).
Editor: A. Kaer