HCWH Europe tentatively welcomes today’s ENVI Committee vote on food waste

Brussels, 24th January 2017

Today the European Parliament (EP) Environment (ENVI) Committee voted on the EP’s report and amendments to the European Commission’s (EC) proposal - COM(215) 595 final - to revise the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).

HCWH Europe generally welcomes the ENVI Committee’s support for the amendments on food waste - such as a new food waste definition, a food waste hierarchy, and food waste reduction targets.

No common definition of “food waste” currently exists in the EU, which forces Member States to work with different national definitions and, as a consequence, different methodologies to prevent and reduce food waste. Therefore, a harmonised, legally binding, European definition of food waste is necessary in order to better regulate food waste and improve efforts to prevent and reduce food waste across all Member States.

The new proposal is to define food waste as “food intended for human consumption, either in edible or inedible status, removed from the production or supply chain to be discarded including at primary production, processing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, retail and consumer levels, with the exception of primary production losses”1.

HCWH Europe welcomes the important addition of a definition of food waste, but regrets the exclusion of losses at the primary production stage from it. By excluding this stage, a considerable amount of food waste will not fall under this definition, and therefore there will be no obligation on Member States to reduce it. 

HCWH Europe also applauds the adoption of a food waste hierarchy. This is a key instrument that will play a major role in the management of food waste, as food has specific priorities and potential for re-use that are not applicable to the waste management of other products. For example, there are particular recovery processes that can only be applied to food, such as the donation of unused food to charities and social organisations, or its use for animal feed or composting. Now approved by the ENVI Committee of the EP, these resourceful stages of food waste management are one step closer to being officially recognised by the EU and legally binding for Member States.

“In relation to food waste, we feel optimistic about the progress made by the ENVI Committee and we hope that the amendments adopted today will be supported by the vote in plenary. However, the establishment of loose objectives rather than strict targets for food waste reduction is regrettable, as they might not necessarily lead to significantly reducing food waste in Europe” 

Ana-Christina Gaeta, Resources Policy Officer, HCWH Europe. 

Today’s vote was in favour of Member States working towards the objective of a 30% reduction in food waste by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030. As welcome as these reduction targets are, the wording of the targets means that they are not legally binding and therefore may not have the desired effect.

In light of the EU commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3, which explicitly calls for a global 50% reduction of food waste per capita “by 2030, at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”2, it is regrettable that the ENVI Committee did not call for legally binding targets. 

HCWH Europe works towards better management and regulation of food waste in European hospitals. The revision of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) should be considered an opportunity by the European institutions to pave the way towards reducing the 88 million tonnes3 of food wasted in Europe each year.


1. European Parliament, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety – Compromised Amendments 2015/0275 (COD)

2. www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg12