EU ministers agree on new food waste targets 

EU environment ministers have now reached a consensus on revising the directive concerning food and textile waste. This agreement aligns with the targets proposed by the European Commission, although it falls short of the European Parliament’s more ambitious goals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that about one-third of global food production is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain. 

Within the EU, this translates to nearly 59 million tonnes of food waste annually, which is the equivalent of 131 kilograms per person per year.

With the text approved by the Environment Council, the Council is now prepared to begin negotiations with the European Parliament. 

The extent of the targets is expected to be a major point of contention. In March, the Parliament endorsed binding waste reduction targets of at least 20% in food processing and manufacturing, and 40% per capita in retail, restaurants, catering, and households by December 31, 2030.

The Council supported the European Commission’s targets, which call for a 10% reduction in waste processing and manufacturing, and a 30% reduction per capita in the retail, catering, restaurant, and household sectors. 

The Council’s text also includes the potential to establish targets for edible foodstuffs by December 31, 2027, pending a review by the Commission of the 2030 targets.

The EU’s Green Deal, launched in December 2019, reaffirms its commitment to halving food waste per capita at distribution and consumption levels by 2030, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Alain Maron, Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region Government, hailed the agreement as an important step towards a more sustainable and circular European economy. 

Maron also mentioned that several flexibilities have been incorporated to assist member states in achieving these targets. For instance, while the Commission had set the target based on 2020 data—the beginning of the harmonised measurement method—the Council proposed allowing them to use a reference year prior to 2020.

The Council’s general approach permits member states to choose 2021, 2022, or 2023 as reference years, considering that 2020 data might be skewed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Presidency. 

Additionally, ministers agreed to include two “correction factors”: one for tourism and another for the production level in the food processing and manufacturing sector, acknowledging their impact on food waste production.

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