I always feared a meal with my grandmother. Why? Because she always made me finish everything on my plate. She’d set me up with a massive spread of vegetables, a mountain of mystery casserole, and a gigantic glass of skimmed milk (the worst drink of all time).
If I chose not to eat every last morsel, my darling granny would guilt me no end. “There are people on the street who would die for this food,” she’d say. “And you’re just going to put it in the trash?”
As much as I despised the dinners she made, the woman had a point: being wasteful is just wrong. I guess some big shot in France had a grandparent who did the very same thing, as they’ve just become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food. Instead, the stores are now required to take the extras to charities and food banks.
In February, the law was unanimously passed by the French senate after a petition was launched by Courbevoie councillor Arash Derambarsh. For any supermarket that is 400 square meters long (4,206 square feet), it’s now illegal to get rid of perfectly good food. Fines for disobeying the new law could get up to €3,750 euros ($4,195).
Another part of the law is that stores are banned from deliberately spoiling food in order to stop it being eaten by people foraging in their trash. In recent years, the number of families, students, unemployed and homeless people in France searching in supermarket’s trash for food has sky rocketed. To combat this, store employees have doused edible food in bleach, reportedly to prevent food poisoning from items taken from the trash. Others simply locked up their trash in warehouses.
Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of French food banks, has high hopes for the law. He claims:
“…we’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute. In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products.”
Supporters of the cause are trying to inspire other EU countries to adopt the law. Some countries have laws to restrict food waste, like Germany, but France so far is the only country to take it to this level. French companies are even given tax incentives to cover their costs, and to ensure that the food is received in good condition. This is all part of France’s vow to cut food waste in half by 2025. Well done, France. Grandma would be proud.