Ensuring that less food ends up as waste is a job for the whole of society. In her latest video podcast Chancellor Angela Merkel stresses that everybody will have to do their bit: consumers, farmers, the trade, the food industry and the hospitality trade.
The National Strategy to Reduce Food Waste now adopted by the Cabinet is to halve the per capita food waste at retail and consumer level. Food losses all the way along the production and supply chain are also to be reduced.
Keeping the entire food supply chain in view
Processes are to be optimised right the way along the food supply chain - from primary producers to processing, the wholesalers and retailers, the restaurant and catering sector right up to the fridges in consumers’ own kitchens. And research and digitalisation are to play their part. "Smart packaging", which indicates by a change in colour whether or not food is still good, is one such option.
The strategy now adopted firstly notes the status quo in terms of food waste. In dialogue forums for each sector of the food supply chain, specific measures are then to be elaborated jointly with food companies, civil society organisations and representatives from the realms of politics and business.
A body comprising representatives from national and federal state level governments is to act as an inter-ministerial and inter-state steering instrument.
More respect for food
Parallel to this, society needs to rethink the way it sees food, with more respect for food and those who make it. Many consumers are already aware of the issue – but that is not enough. That is why the initiative launched back in 2012 "Zu gut für die Tonne!" (too good to throw away) is to be extended to embrace all sectors of the food supply chain. The social media too are to play a greater part in future, with another focus being nutrition education.
Launching the first activities
On Wednesday 20 February the dialogue forums are to be launched. The WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) Dialogue Forum with Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner will look at ways of avoiding food waste in the restaurant and catering sector.
On Friday, the minister will launch the nationwide campaign "Riechen. Probieren. Genießen. - Kostbares retten" (Smell, taste, enjoy – save what is still good) with the food discounter Penny. Consumers still throw away food that is still perfectly good, simply because the sell-by date is close at hand or has already passed. Every year 55 kilos of food per capita end up in the waste – one third of that fruit and vegetables. The campaign is designed to get people to rethink the way they deal with food.
What the government has done so far
Since 2012 the "Zu gut für die Tonne!" (too good to throw away) initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has been campaigning to make people more appreciative of the true value of food. Consumers are informed about the value of food, the causes of food waste, and ways of reducing this waste. It offers practical hints, including recipes using leftovers and party planners. Every year, a national prize is awarded for the most creative ideas. The next "Zu gut für die Tonne" awards will be presented on 3 April.
At www.lebensmittelwertschaetzen.de the German government and the federal states publish information on campaigns to reduce waste and call on other actors to showcase their own projects. You will already find information on more than 100 campaigns, including "BrotRetter" and the online platform "Deine Ernte" which enables people to pass on fruit and vegetables they cannot use.
The German government currently provides about 16 million euros for research programmes. They are investigating resource efficiency, food processing operations and the way consumers throw away food, to give but a few examples. Digital solutions are becoming increasingly important, for instance to improve the way food is passed on to non-profit organisations.
What can each individual do?
Consumers should take care to use all food, whether they grow it in their own garden or buy it at their local supermarket. Everyone should think carefully what they really need before they go shopping. Storing food correctly can also help avoid waste. The "Zu gut für die Tonne" website offers lots of useful pointers.
We should all be more aware about food waste, whether at home, where yesterday’s leftovers can be made into a tasty meal today, or in restaurants, where it is becoming increasingly common to pack up leftovers so that diners can take it home with them.
There is also the option of donating food. Many associations and organisations, like the ‘Tafel’ foodbanks, foodsharing schemes, Welthungerhilfe, Brot für die Welt and others use donation systems and online platforms to provide people with food that would otherwise be thrown away.