Commerce and Ministry: Controversy over Food in the Dumpster

An amendment to the Waste Management Act made it mandatory to record the amount of food thrown away and donated in the last quarter of last year. The reporting requirement applies to retailers with an area of ​​400 square meters or more or five outlets. The figures released on Friday were reported by 250 supermarkets, or around 4,000 points of sale.

Voluntarily report which product groups are trashed. According to this information, the largest share is made up of fruits and vegetables (45 percent), baked goods (19 percent) and fresh produce (twelve percent). Donations include fruits and vegetables as well as dairy and baked goods.

Graphics: APA/ORF.at; Source: BMK

Gewessler expects more effort

Looking at the numbers, Climate Protection Minister Leonor Küssler (Greens) sees “an even better potential to donate more and throw less away”. He expects more ventures in business. The trade association reacted angrily to the fact that the report was sent to private media before traders. “The Standard” had previously reported on the data estimates.

In addition, the ministry has held a legal statement for several weeks, according to which the publication of quantities by individual companies – that is, not aggregated, as a quantity – violates data protection. Grocery chain Spar told “The Standard” that the company considers disclosing donations and waste values ​​at the level of individual companies “is neither prudent nor legally defensible”.

An Open Letter from the Chamber of Commerce

Christian Bruchner, head of the federal food trade group at the Chamber of Commerce (WKO), continued the criticism in an open letter to Gewessler on Friday. In it he expressed “deep concern” that the ministry is “disregarding data security and publishing false information to defame the food industry”.

Numbers are unadjusted and do not relate to total volumes. Food waste that is never used for consumption, such as bones, seeds and skins, will also be reported to the ministry. Some of the rejected items are related to product recalls.

Big differences depending on the supermarket

Limits for individual supermarkets vary widely – from 500 to 12,000 kilograms of waste per point of sale. Due to the wide range in number and size of supermarkets, it is difficult to compare quantities, but the ratios between destruction and food donations are comparable.

According to “Standard”, the discount Hofer, for example, donated two and a half times more food than ended up in the garbage. In a broadcast Friday, Hofer attributed this to a concentrated product range, optimized logistics and collaboration with social and food service companies. The situation at Lidl is different: ten times more food is thrown away than donated. At Billah, four and a half times as much was destroyed as was donated, and at Spar two and a half times as much.

Garbage container with food

IMAGO/Pond5 Images/Xariestudiox

Fruits and vegetables make up the largest proportion of food that is destroyed

“Unacceptable” approach

Trade spokesman Rainer Will said the climate protection ministry's actions were “unacceptable”. He also criticized the ministry for putting the brakes on facilitating food distribution over the years. Businesses are forced by tax and food laws to operate in the gray area when transporting food products.

At nine percent, food business is not the main cause of food waste. According to the trade association, private households (58 percent) and restaurants and commercial kitchens (19 percent) are the largest contributors.

Environmental protection group Greenpeace called for expanded reporting requirements for food manufacturing and catering companies. In addition, reduction targets set by the government are necessary for individual sectors.

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