What you need to know about Italy's new food waste laws

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Italy has passed new legislation to combat food waste. Photo: allispossible/Flickr
11:18 CEST+02:00
Italy's upper house on Tuesday passed a raft of new legislation designed to combat food waste across the country. But what do the new laws mean for businesses and consumers in Italy?

What is going to change?

Unlike a similar set of laws passed in France earlier this year, which promised fines of up to €75,000 for supermarkets which bin too much food, Italian laws simply seek to incentivise businesses to give their unwanted food away for free.

“The new laws make it easier for shops and restaurants to give excess food away to charitable causes,” Democratic Party politician, Maria Chiara Gadda, who championed the bill, told La Repubblica.

Bureaucracy has been streamlined, allowing businesses to donate their excess by filling out a simple monthly form noting any donations made. New laws also allow them to donate food that is passed its sell-by date, without risking sanctions for health and safety violations.

To further encourage businesses to give away their un-needed food, donors will get generous reductions in their waste taxes in line with how much they give away.

But the new laws will have implications for consumers too, mostly for those who eat at restaurants.

A new €1 million campaign will see the government push restaurants to provide so-called 'family bags' so that diners can take their unfinished food home.

The widespread use of 'doggy bags' isn't really part of Italian food culture, but the scheme has been successfully piloted in the Veneto region over the last year and will now be rolled-out nationwide

Italy's Agriculture Ministry will invest €1 million to research new ways to package foods in a bid to protect them better in transit and boost their shelf-life, while state broadcaster RAI will embark on a public information campaign to get citizens to waste less food.

Why is food waste such a big issue?

According to figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, around a third of all food produced is wasted globally. The problem is particularly stark in Europe, where estimates suggest as much as 50 percent of all food brought into households ends up in the bin.

A study by the University of Bologna earlier this year suggested that the food wasted by Italian households and businesses amounts to some €13 billion each year, equivalent to 1.1 percent of the country's GDP.

Will it be a success?

The laws have received enthusiastic support from across the political spectrum and have been welcomed by charitable organizations in Italy.

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There are an estimated 10 million people living in relative poverty in Italy and Giorgio Fogliani, who works for the charity Pasto Buono, which redistributes leftover food to those in need, told La Repubblica the laws could see millions of hungry mouths fed for free each day.

“If on average businesses could prove 20 meals a day through donations, we could feed seven million people daily,” Fogliani said.

“At the moment we provide just 0.5 million meals a year and would like to double that figure in the near future.”

The bill was passed by the Italian Senate with an overwhelming majority: 181 in favour, 16 abstaining and two voting against.

After the vote Prime Minister Matteo Renzi re-tweeted a post by his own Democratic Party which said the new laws had 'great ethical and economic implications' for Italy. 

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