PARIS, French Republic. French MPs have voted unanimously to force supermarkets to give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date. Shops will also be banned from destroying food products, as they have in the past – sometimes by soaking them in bleach – to prevent them being distributed.
The proposal was passed as part of another law in May but was subsequently annulled by France’s constitutional court because of procedural faults.
It was reintroduced on Wednesday and passed by members of the Assemblée Nationale with support from across the political spectrum. The legislation was described in the house as a “crucial measure for the planet”, at a time when world leaders are thrashing out an agreement at the COP21 climate change summit.
The law will come into effect after it has been rubber-stamped by the Sénat, the upper house of the French parliament, on 13 January.
Arash Derambarsh, a local councillor who has campaigned for the law, said it was “a historic victory”. “It’s extremely rare for a law to be passed so quickly and with unanimous support,” he told the Guardian.
The new legislation allows individuals to set up associations, with the approval of the agriculture ministry, to collect and distribute food. “It means that ordinary citizens can show their solidarity and help distribute this food to those who need it,” said Derambarsh.
He said the next step is to persuade the European commission to require member states to introduce similar legislation across the EU and, eventually, around the world.
He described the waste of food and the process of deliberately spoiling it and making it unfit for consumption – while the homeless, poor and unemployed go hungry – as “scandalous and absurd”.
An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food are binned in France each year – 67% of it by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The figure for across the European Union is 89m tonnes, while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.
A petition set up by Derambarsh has more than 211,000 signatures in France and 740,000 in Europe.
After the vote, city authorities in Paris and a group of Parisian restaurateurs launched operation doggy bag or la box anti-gaspi [anti-waste box] in 100 of the capital’s restaurants.
“Almost 60% of inhabitants [of the Paris region] say they do not finish what is on their plate in a restaurant, while 75% of them say they would be ready to use a takeaway bag, to eat it later,” the group said in a statement.
Credit: The Guardian (UK)