Spanish government reinstates food waste law

by Lorraine Williamson
food waste
ASSSA

The Spanish Council of Ministers is pulling out laws that were not approved during the previous legislature due to the early elections on 23 July. This week, the draft law on the prevention of food losses and food waste was approved.

This regulation provides fines of between €60,000 and €500,000 for restaurants, bars and supermarkets that throw away food, among other measures.

During the press conference after the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, stressed the importance of this law. The strength and timeliness of the issue have prompted the government to give the green light to the bill so that it can start its way through parliament again.

Economic and ethical component

The law is based on ‘economic efficiency’, without forgetting the ‘environmental content’ to combat ‘the loss of natural resources’, as well as the ‘social justice’ for the most vulnerable and the ‘moral and ethical component’.

The focus is on prevention and awareness-raising of all actors in the food chain. Very serious violations are punishable by a fine of between €60,001 and €500,000.

January 1, 2025

Planas pointed out that the most expensive food is “the food that ends up in the trash.” “This is very expensive food, which is why we must do everything we can to reduce this waste,” he stressed. Furthermore, it is why he said that the draft law sets the date of entry into force at January 1, 2025 “to give operators time to adapt.”

“Of course, this date depends on the parliamentary debate on the bill, but we are not wasting time: it is a law with a normative content, but also with a pedagogical and preventive content,” he argued.

Cooperation agreements

The minister added that the new regulation establishes a hierarchy of priorities for the destination of food. Human consumption, through donation or redistribution of food, is given top priority. Links in the chain must sign cooperation agreements with companies, social security organisations and initiatives and other non-profit organisations or food banks.

These agreements must expressly lay down, inter alia, the conditions for the collection, transport and storage of the products. Food distribution activities carried out in establishments with an area of 1,300 square metres or less are exempt from the obligation to carry out these donation agreements.

What to do with unsold food?

The second priority concerns the transformation of unsold food that is still fine for consumption. This will be converted into other products, such as juices or jams. If the food can no longer be used for human consumption, it is preferably used for animal feed and the production of animal feed, as a by-product in other industries or as waste, to obtain compost or biofuels.

Imperfect food

The draft law establishes a number of guidelines, both for the government and for the various links in the chain, to prevent waste. For example, it stipulates that businesses must have sales lines for products that are considered “ugly, imperfect or unesthetic”, or to promote the consumption of seasonal, local or ecological products.

Expiry date

In addition, the regulation encourages the sale of products with an expiry date or expiry date. Consumers are informed about the correct interpretation of best-before dates and ‘use by’ dates.

Eateries

Eateries – it’s not just restaurants that will have to deal with ‘a new obligation’.  It should be made easier for consumers to carry food that has not been consumed in reusable or easily recyclable packaging at no extra cost. However, they will have to charge for single-use plastic packaging, as stipulated in the Waste Law 7/2022.

Mandatory plan

The new law also requires all actors in the food chain to have a loss and waste prevention plan. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should draw up a national plan for the control of food losses and food waste, in consultation with other relevant ministries.

Average waste of Spanish households in 2022

Thus, in 2022, each Spanish household wasted an average of about 65.5 kilos or litres of food and drink. Unprocessed products were wasted the most, although this percentage decreased by 9% in 2022 compared to 2021. The wastage of cooked dishes increased by 6.7% compared to 2021. Outside the home, food consumption increased by 6.1% in 2022, but there was an 11.3% reduction in waste.

Also read: New law must end food waste in Spain

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