We Throw Food Away All the Time, But We Don’t Have To

A new law just passed in France has got us thinking about alternatives.

France has just passed a law that requires large supermarkets to have contracts with charity groups as a means of giving away their food waste, rather than throwing it out. The law, which had been stalled after a procedural holdup earlier this year, also puts an end to the practice of pouring bleach over unsold food before throwing it out.


France’s new legislation seems like a big step forward in a world struggling to achieve a more sustainable future. One can’t help but wonder whether these sorts of measures will become more of a necessity rather than a luxury. Landfills can only hold so much, and they can only decompose so quickly.


So why don’t we have a similar law in the U.S.? Well there is, sort of. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 allows restaurant owners and other food donors to give away their food “in good faith.” This means that generally, there would be no repercussion if their food were to accidentally make someone sick.

But many restaurant owners don’t know about the Good Samaritan Act and instead end up throwing out the leftover food that they are unable to give away to their employees. Many cite concerns of falling outside of public health laws if they were to give away already-cooked food. Perhaps a public information campaign could help make more food producers and servers aware of their ability to donate leftovers and keep good food out of the trash?

Guillaume Garot, who helped build the new law in France hopes that it will make France a “leader” among other European countries, and he could very well be correct. We need more examples and news of the new and existing policies that encourage reduced waste and greater sharing of resources.

Below, Bill Nye answers a fan's question about how we can lessen the load on our landfills. "How about sending trash into space?"


Image: Boris Horvat/Getty Images

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Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors.  Follow her on Twitter:@stefanicox

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