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New bill proposes mandatory donation of unsold food

Finnish MPs are following in France's footsteps and introducing legislation that would make it mandatory for potential food waste to be directed to charities and food banks while it is still edible. Coordination of the redistibution would be a challenge.

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Only 10 percent of discarded food is currently redistributed in Finland. Image: Yle

The cold storage unit in Koivukylä, run by the city of Vantaa and its association of parishes, is home to thousands of kilograms of food that once stood in danger of going to waste. Statistics show some ten percent of foodstuffs produced in Finland does.

A group of Finnish MPs recently drafted a bill  requiring that supermarkets, municipal kitchens and cafeterias, and bakery outlet shops should have to hand down their edible foodstuffs to charities once the food is removed from shelves and is no longer for sale.

The bill proposes that shops could either leave the discarded food to be picked up by charity organisations or offer it up for grabs themselves. Only ten percent of unsold retail food is used at present, and all charity efforts are entirely voluntary.

Chief Ilkka Nieminen from the Finnish Grocery Trade Association is adamant that the proposed system will not work.

"Shops simply cannot operate by both selling and giving away products, and organisations who would pick up discarded food are far too thin on the ground," he says.

New system needed

Municipal distribution networks may provide the missing piece to the puzzle. Localised services like these could gather food waste from grocery stores, public kitchens and food industry plants and take responsibility for storing it in cold storage and delivering it to charity organisations while it is still edible.

Only one such system is currently in place in the whole country. Hanna Kuisma says that the Yhteinen pöytä (Shared Table) project she helps run currently delivers 15 tonnes worth of discarded food as food aid per week.

The goal of the new bill is to compel shops and municipalities to take part in the redistribution of food that would otherwise become waste. The food industry itself currently rivals private homes in Finland for throwing away the most edible food.

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