Many countries around the world have adopted food waste legislation. What does that mean for restaurants? We find out.
BY KARL S. - DEC 1, 2023
More people are becoming aware of the issue of food waste. Governments are under increasing pressure to respond. So food waste legislation is now in place in several countries.
France, Italy, South Korea, and others all have legislation to deal with food waste.
But where does that leave restaurants? What do they need to know about the legislation that has passed so far? Has it had a positive effect?
This post looks at active food waste legislation in different countries. We will also look at the effect on restaurants in these countries.
In part 2 we will list more countries that have adopted food waste legislation. The laws affect restaurants, and more opportunities for the F&B industry to lead on this global problem.
I. Food Waste Legislation in France, Italy, and South Korea
Many countries have adopted anti-food waste legislation over the last decade. They include:
In 2016 France brought in an innovative law that was a step forward in the fight against food waste, Supermarkets are forbidden to destroy unsold food and were told they had to donate it instead. The law was enforced with fines of up to €3,750 per infraction.
This included measures for restaurants. From February 2016 restaurants were obliged to offer “doggy bags” for diners. So diners could take home any excess food that could not finish.
The “doggy bag” legislation broke with cultural norms in France. Although in 2014 75% of French people liked the idea of “doggy bags”, 70% of French people had never asked for one. It was also seen as a faux pas to ask for a “doggy bag” at a high-end French restaurant.
Effect on Restaurants
Research has shown some interesting findings on French diners’ attitudes toward “doggy bags”. The Journal of Food Products Marketing produced some interesting findings in 2018 regarding consumer attitudes toward “doggy bags” and leaving food on the plate at the end of a meal.
“34.3% of diners claimed that they left food at the end of their meals, and 44.4% said other people on the table left food on their plates at the end of their meals.
25.1% of respondents who left food at the end were offered a doggy bag by the restaurant or café staff and 69.3% of them took the food home. For those who answered having food left but not being offered a doggy bag, 5.3% asked the staff for a doggy bag to take the food home, and 85.7% of them were given a doggy bag. Results showed that 21.4% of all respondents were refused a doggy bag when asked.
Over half of those surveyed (61.3%) claimed to use doggy bags to take uneaten food home, 13.5% currently made no effort but had decided to start on it, 15.8% currently made no effort but are thinking about it, and 9.4% was not and did not plan to use a doggy bag in the future.”
There are cultural factors in play that will take some time to resolve. But with more diners liking the idea of doggy bags, French restaurants need to pay attention to consumer trends and keep up with this demand.
The law aimed to reduce food waste in every step of the food supply chain. Like the French law, it focuses on the donation and distribution of food waste. But unlike the French law, it is not focused on punishment. The Italian law aims to encourage businesses to donate or distribute wasted food through tax rebates.
Effect on Restaurants
Like the French law, Italy’s law also encourages the use of “doggy bags” in restaurants. Again, as in France, there has been some cultural resistance to this. The then environment under-secretary Barbara Degani said the introduction of the term “family bag”, as it would be called in Italy, is an upgrade from the use of the words “doggy bag”.
Italy’s law allowed businesses to donate food past its sell-by date and allowed farmers to transfer unsold produce to charities at no extra cost.
South Korea has been fighting food waste since 2005 when the government banned throwing food into landfills. In 2010 the South Korean government launched a food waste disposal pilot. This involved residents being held financially responsible for the food waste generated in 144 local regions.
During this, the South Korean government was building infrastructure for a national food waste disposal system. This rolled out in 2013. Every resident in Korea was responsible for disposing of their food waste properly and paying for it by weight. Fines are in place for non-compliance.
Just as with normal refuse collection, food waste trucks pick up organic waste every week. This waste is then taken to a processing facility. At the facility liquid is separated, which makes up around 80% of the waste. This liquid is then converted into biogas with solid scraps used as compost and livestock feed.
Plans for a food waste plant were agreed in 2020 in Gyeonggi-do province north of Seoul, that will convert biogas into heat. It’s estimated that the seven-megawatt plant will digest up to 93,000 tons of food waste per year.
Effect on Restaurants
Restaurants are encouraged to use fewer small side dishes and implement eco-friendly menus. Cafeterias in public buildings launched a “no leftovers” day once a week
Unfortunately, there are still food waste issues in restaurants, as the focus on cutting food waste is very much on individuals. According to Koreajoongangdaily.com, many restaurants do not measure their food waste. They only sign contracts for disposal of their food waste bins with waste management firms. But businesses do not have to submit plans to cut their food waste. This is a huge missed opportunity for restaurants and the South Korean government.
While innovative legislation and infrastructure are having a huge effect on food waste, it is clear that restaurants can do more. Even in South Korea, where the public has adopted food waste measurement practices, restaurants are often behind the curve. Join the battle against food waste today! Visit lightblueconsulting.com for information on online training and our FIT food waste app.
Please come back next week for part 2! We will look at food waste laws in China, Singapore, Japan, state laws in the U.S.A., and the U.A.E. We will examine the effect these laws have on restaurants and how they can innovate and accelerate the battle against food waste.