March 15, 2024

European Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC

Angela Kenny

By Angela Kenny

We’re one step closer to mandatory food waste reduction targets!

In July 2023 the European Commission introduced a draft directive amending the European Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC (WFD). Last Wednesday, the European Parliament's voted to accept the proposal - having added more stringent mandatory food waste reduction targets, and an obligation to donate good surplus food. We’re one step closer to mandatory food waste reduction targets.

The vote was passed by an overwhelming majority of MEPs (514 in favour, 20 against and 91 abstentions).

Tackling food waste represents a triple opportunity: for the climate, for food security and for agri-food system sustainability. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. 60 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in the EU while 37 million EU citizens cannot afford a quality meal every second day. This moral failure cannot be allowed to continue and the amendments to the WFD are a vital component of the EU’s Green Deal ambitions to reduce waste generation and create a circular economy. 

Mandatory food waste reduction targets 

The amendments suggested by the EP would increase the binding food waste reduction targets proposed by the Commission last July to at least 20% in food processing and manufacturing (instead of 10%) and at least 40% in retail, restaurants, food services and households (instead of 30%). 


Mandatory donation of good food 

The directive amendment, as proposed by the EP,  would also insist on the redistribution of good surplus food. FoodCloud particularly welcomes the provision that, ‘Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that economic operators make available for donation unsold food that is safe for human consumption.’ Given the Irish Government’s target to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 this is an important measure to increase the levels of food being redistributed rather than wasted. 

It’s vital, however, that the law requiring donation of good surplus food will be accompanied by investment in the infrastructure required to enable redistribution of that food. We know both from our colleagues in French food banks (where there has been mandatory donation of surplus food since 2016) and from research carried out by FoodCloud in 2020 with our community partners, that there is a cost involved in taking and managing surplus and that the activity needs to be supported with the appropriate resources. 


The other proposed revisions to the directive include important nudges that will support the achievement of reduction targets:

  • Reference to how vital the stringent application of the waste hierarchy is in the management and prevention of waste. 
  • The EP asked the Commision to examine (by December 2027) the possibility of increasing binding food reduction targets to at least 30% & 50% respectively to be reached by 2035.
  • The text also recognises the requirement to have more streamlined data reporting around food waste: some text
    • ‘To ensure that future data are scientifically sound, high quality and comparable, it is necessary to establish and apply clear and consistent measurement methods among the Member States…’ 
    • ‘The Commission should provide comprehensive guidelines pertaining to the methodology for food waste measurement’
  • The focus on the need for the promotion of fruits and vegetables with external defects - often referred to as ugly or wonky fruit and vegetables and addressing any market practices that cause food waste.

Primary food producers (farmers) continue to receive a derogation from the directive for the moment but the text commits the Commission to conduct an assessment by December 2025 to determine whether targets for food loss at this stage of the supply chain should be introduced.

This is the last interaction the current set of MEPs will have with these proposals. There will not be time for any further action in the lifetime of this EU Parliament and the file will be followed up by the new Parliament after the June 2024 European elections.

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