Public private partnerships for preventing food waste

Klima- og miljøminister Vidar Helgesens innlegg om matsvinn på EAT Stockholm Food Forum 12. juni 2017.

Your Royal Highness, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. That is because a lot of productive land and soil go to waste. Food waste is therefore a major contributor to climate change. Climate change, in turn, undermines food production and food security.

But that is not why my parents 40 years ago told me to eat my food. They grew up during the Second World War and knew what a lack of food meant.

It's partly why my daughter, 40 years younger than me, is watching my plate. She knows a lot about these things, so I am one of those being educated first by my parents and then by my kids.

Food waste is wrong on so many levels. It's existential, it has to do with climate change, food security, biodiversity, water and forests. It's moral because many people lack food. And it's an economic issue. It's bad for the household economy, it's bad for productive capacity and it's bad for transport capacity.

To bake one loaf of bread requires grain from about two square meters of soil. In my country Norway, we're wasting on average 100.000 loafs of bread per day. If you add that up, in a year that's 73 square kilometers of land. Manhattan is 60.

Some months back, Norwegians learnt about carrots and onions wasted because they are unfit for packaging. And we learnt about hens, not cooked on gas, but killed by gas, not added to coq au vin, but added to concrete, as a binding agent.

The good thing is that that kind of information makes us more aware. Food waste actually fell in my country by 12 percent from 2010 - 2015 because we do know more.

We do know, or more and more of us know, what you can see on this slide, that food waste amounts to 69 kilos per capita in Norway. One out of eight shopping bags go to waste.

And another good thing is that action has been taken.

All grocery chains in Norway now have special offers. They offer smaller bread for smaller households, and they have this fantastic offer: Buy one, pay for one. So instead of encouraging you to buy more, they keep lower prices on all their goods, or at least, that's what they say.

A hotel chain in Norway was able to reduce food waste by 60 percent in three months because of data registration of all their food. They punched every single food item onto an iPad. The knowledge they derived from that made them set appropriate targets and reduce food waste by 60 percent.

We have a global target as well. Food waste under the UN sustainable development goals should be reduced by 50 percent by 2030 at the retail and consumer levels, and to be reduced along the production and supply chain.

This means we need to reduce food waste every step of the way from soil and sea to the table: A farmer throwing crooked carrots, the driver crushing eggs during transport, the shopkeeper cleaning out spotted apples, you and I at home throwing food. And we, you and I as consumers, account for 60 percent of food waste.

Essentially, we need to launch a war on food waste.  

The Norwegian Government is going to do that. And, of course, as a government, we will launch that war with appropriate bureaucratic and administrative means through negotiating an agreement.

We will establish an agreement between the government and the industry, a comprehensive and binding agreement with the involvement of 5 ministries and 11 sector organizations from the industry, with the target of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030. All key stakeholders are involved: farmers, fish and seafood producers, food manufacturers, restaurants, super market chains and convenient stores.

Now, what is that going to look like in practice? It could look like small packages for singles, better packaging for better durability, preparation of pre-packaged meals, offers like 50 percent off the price on items approaching expiry date. And it could be a lot of other things. We don't have all the answers yet. But we do have an agreement on the target. And we have an agreement that all the partners will do what they can within their sector to take action and to spur innovation.

To help us achieve that, we will have systematic mapping of food waste, we will ensure a full overview of actions taken at any given time. We will ensure reporting, industry by industry, and statistics compiled by the authorities.

It has taken a while to get here, not least because we need to define what food waste is. In order to measure and monitor, you need to know what it is. We define it as all edible parts of food produced for human consumption that are either wasted or taken out of the value chain. If you look at this inverted pyramid, it does indicate, as our definition does, that food given as animal feed or for biogas also amounts as food waste.

We believe this agreement is groundbreaking and could serve as a model for other countries, because it covers the entire value chain, not only consumers and retail levels, because partners will meet at a regular basis to take stock and exchange lessons learnt, because we will trigger friendly competitions between the actors, and because it's all going to be coordinated by my eminent Ministry.

I believe we can all do our share. We can do better at seeing, smelling, tasting, freezing, and repeating our meals. We can learn from the milk producer who has labelled the milk box "best before, but not bad after".

Or we could learn from Hong. Hong is the chef at my Ministry canteen. She serves you fresh bread one day, gives you a lower price the next day, a cheese sandwich the third day and soup croutons on the fourth day.

Hong didn't want to be taken photos of, but, of course, my political adviser wanted to be taken a photograph of. So he's here, serving himself with Hong's fantastic Friday soup with croutons and imperfect vegetables.

I would like to call upon us all to pay attention to food waste, at a personal level and at a political level, because we'll then achieve less pressure on biodiversity, less greenhouse gas emissions, better use of resources, improved food security and a lot of other benefits. It's really a multiple win-win opportunity, and the best thing of all, it's actually quite a low-hanging fruit.

Thank you very much!