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08 Aug 2023

Eurocommerce - Tackling Food Waste in the EU

By Els Bedert, EuroCommerce Director Product Policy and Sustainability

And Marilena Papaeti, EuroCommerce Adviser Product Policy and Sustainability


According to the first EU-wide monitoring of food waste data published by Eurostat, the retail and wholesale sector generated the least amount of food waste in 2020, accounting for only 7%. This demonstrates the dedication of retailers and wholesalers in actively combating food waste and the prominent role it plays in their sustainability strategies. From setting ambitious targets and publicly reporting their progress to the adoption of innovative technological solutions, retailers and wholesalers are committed to addressing the challenge of food waste.


Actions by retailers and wholesalers tackling food waste


Retailers and wholesalers pursue a range of measures to avoid food waste along the entire supply chain - from pre-delivery to in-store and beyond. In addition to joining initiatives like the 2012 Retail Agreement on Waste, EU platform on food losses and waste and the EU Code of Conduct, they adopt their own initiatives and collaborate at the national level with national associations to go beyond what legislation requires. Acknowledging the urgency of addressing food waste as a pressing global issue, retailers and wholesalers participate in international initiatives such as the Consumer Goods Forum Food Waste Resolution, under which leading food companies and retailers have pledged to halve the amount of food waste within operations by 2025 and World Resources Institute's 10x20x30 initiative, where 13 global retailers have committed to engaging and guiding at least 20 of their suppliers to halve food loss and waste by 2030.


Watch the EuroCommerce Video animation for more details: Food Waste - EuroCommerce


European retailers and wholesalers work hard to prevent food waste from happening in the first place. They promote and discount goods approaching their use-by dates, invest in technological solutions such as better packaging to extend shelf-life, and find alternative uses for unsold products, such as turning them into soups, jams, animal feed, or even energy!


Furthermore, they are trying to build a sustainable supply chain. They use forecasting systems based on sales data from previous years to better communicate their needs to their suppliers. Only by combining the efforts of all supply chain stakeholders will we be able to make a real difference.


When food waste cannot be prevented, retailers work with food banks and charities to donate meals and provide logistic-related support where needed. To facilitate this, FEBA, EuroCommerce and FoodDrinkEurope jointly developed “Every meal matters”; a guide that provides step-by-step instructions on the best possible way to donate food. 


With 53% of food waste generated in households, retailers and wholesalers also strive to raise awareness through food waste campaigns, removing ‘best before’ date marking and providing tips on how to use leftovers, just to name a few.


Actions of the European Commission


To accelerate the EU’s progress towards Sustainable Development Target 12.3, the European Commission is now proposing to set legally binding food waste reduction targets for EU Member States, as part of the revision of the Waste Framework Directive.

Member States would be required to take measures to, by the end of 2030, reduce food waste:

  • by 10%, in processing and manufacturing,
  • by 30% (per capita), jointly at retail and consumption (restaurants, food services and households).
  • The results of the first EU-wide monitoring of food waste levels of 2020 will serve as a baseline.

Alongside, the Commission has also published a compendium of solutions to help prevent food waste at the consumer level. 


Well-designed regulations play a key role in the prevention of food waste. EuroCommerce is currently preparing its position on the proposal of the European Commission.


For more examples of actions taken by retailers and wholesalers, please visit our website: Food Waste - EuroCommerce.

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