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Germany: Empty Bins Campaign

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(© MachineHeadz - iStockphoto.com)
(© MachineHeadz - iStockphoto.com)

2 May was protest day against food waste. An article in Eco-World (eco-world.de) describes how activists demonstrated in front of the federal Ministry of Agriculture to vent their anger at the minister for ignoring this humanitarian and environmental issue.

Wasting food

On food protest day, three activists from the campaign “Empty Bins – ban supermarkets throwing away food” dressed up as the Minister of Agriculture. They wore suits and identical face masks and perched on top of waste bins in front of the federal Ministry of Agriculture. They all closed their eyes, and covered their ears and mouths to illustrate the demonstrators' view that he sees, hears and says nothing. Many people who rescue discarded food – some dressed as colourful vegetables – came to protest at the way the problem is being ignored. 

The consequences

Leonie Dorn from Aktion-Agrar pointed out that when food is wasted what ends up in the bin is energy, water and the chance for all people to feed themselves. She said that, although it was a huge problem, Minister of Agriculture Schmidt refuses to tackle it. With too few staff and his one-sided concentration on the role of the consumer, he is preventing real change and an overall concept to address food waste. If the CO2 produced worldwide for wasted food were the emissions of a country, it would be in third place after the USA and China. In 2016 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched the first food waste day based on its calculations that indicated a third of all food ends up being binned or - in the year up to 2 May – did not find its way into a human stomach. 

The role of politicians

Manuel Wiemann from the German organisation Foodsharing-Netzwerk added that Schmidt must be deliberately not listening and not looking, because the German parliament has for a long time been demanding measures to combat food waste. And people in Germany are annoyed: in a survey in 2016, 87 percent said they would welcome a ban, similar to the law in France, on supermarkets throwing food away. They collected more than 50,000 signatures and submitted them last year.

However, it took until 31 March for the Bundesrat – the upper house in the German parliament - to demand an overall approach to preventing food waste. It was welcomed by the Empty Bin campaign but it fears that once again no action by the ministry will follow. Louise Duhan from Slow Food Youth said that as long ago as 2012 the federal parliament decided that food waste should be halved by 2020. In the meantime, Schmidt has announced that he wants to reach the target by 2030 - but she finds that is completely unrealistic if he carries on as before. For her it is clear: unless there is pressure from the people, nothing will happen. 


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