Greater Barcelona launches plan to combat food waste

267,000 tonnes of food thrown away each year in Catalonia

Fruit section in a supermarket (courtesy of Mercadona)
Fruit section in a supermarket (courtesy of Mercadona) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 13, 2018 01:27 PM

Every year around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted in the European Union, according to the European Commission. Aside from the environmental impact, this adds up to an estimated 143 billion euros of associated costs. In Catalonia alone, approximately 267,000 tonnes of food goes to waste on an annual basis.

The average Catalan throws away around 35 kilos of food per year, enough to feed another person for a whole month. 

Empty plates

If the current production and consumption rate is maintained, experts estimate that by 2050, 50% more food will be produced than now. In terms of sustainability, this is a stark contrast to the amount of food thrown away each year on a global scale, amounting to around 1.3 billion tonnes. If less food is wasted, would it be necessary to produce more?

Agriculture and climate change

Feeding the world’s booming population is no minor feat. Food production often brings problems, especially in the long-term. A European Commission report highlights agriculture’s dependency on the climate, but also points out that it “contributes to the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

While livestock farming produces methane, even organic and mineral fertilisers can cause nitrous oxide to be released into the atmosphere. These are two of the most potent greenhouse gases, and contributors to global warming. As the report states, “evidence on climate change is solid and real.” And now Barcelona has launched an initiative that is just one small step in the right direction.  

Joint effort

The Strategic Metropolitan Barcelona Plan (PEMB) aims to place food policies and the fight against waste on the political agenda. The organization, backed by the city council and metropolitan area public administration (AMB) is working to create a food charterby the coming autumn.

This will involve not only public administrations in greater Barcelona, but also private companies, universities, research centres, as well as more than five and a half million inhabitants in the metropolitan area.  

These different groups and organizations will collaborate in the execution of projects affecting the entire agricultural food chain, working together to create a more ecologically-friendly system.

A sustainable future

Among the main objectives of the charter is the reduction of waste, the protection of agricultural areas, and the promotion of more sustainable food consumption in the way of buying locally, or at least closer to home.

“Given the importance of this issue, there must be some scope in policy that addresses it, which is why we want to put it on the agenda,” explained the plan's general coordinator Oriol Estela. “A number of commitments have to be completed, such as reducing waste,” he went on.

Most food is wasted between the point of production and distribution. Estela pointed out that in the case of agriculture, fruit is not collected and left to spoil as it “does not meet the characteristics the market accepts.” People may be less inclined to buy a banana if it is bruised, for example.

The plan will focus on all stages of the food system, from production, through to distribution and consumption, in order to reverse these trends.