Supermarkets Discard Massive Amounts of Food

Supermarkets Discard Massive Amounts of Food

For the first time, supermarkets in Austria were required to report their food waste statistics, a mandate resulting from an amendment to the Waste Management Act. This law obliges grocery stores and large chains to disclose their waste and donations. Approximately 250 supermarkets, accounting for around 4,000 sales outlets, have reported their waste figures to the Climate Ministry. This obligation applies to companies with at least one sales outlet larger than 400 square meters or those with at least five stores.

The outcome revealed that during the fourth quarter of 2023, over 16,200 tons of food were discarded. During the same period, retailers donated nearly 4,900 tons of food. This indicates that the amount of food wasted is more than triple the amount freely given out by supermarkets.

In an interview with KURIER, trade spokesperson Rainer Will explained a catch-22 situation: “If a grocer wants to give food to the Vienna Tafel, for instance, they have to set the product price to zero because they’re giving it away. Legally, this means the product is deemed worthless and therefore non-marketable. In other words, it should not be passed on at all. However, if the grocer doesn’t reduce the product’s price to zero, they have to pay tax on it, despite not making any money from it.” Will calls on the Climate Protection Ministry to make legal improvements on this matter.

Fruits and Vegetables are Most Wasted

About a quarter of the companies voluntarily disclosed specific types of food that were thrown away. Fruits and vegetables constituted 45 percent of the waste, making them the most wasted. Bakery products were the second most wasted at 19 percent, followed by fresh produce at 12 percent. Dairy products made up 7 percent of the waste. The primary donations consisted of fruits and vegetables (30 percent), milk and dairy products, and baked goods (23 percent each).

Will criticizes the ministry for not addressing areas where “the food waste is actually large”. Apart from private consumers who contribute to 58 percent of all food waste, the catering and production sectors are responsible for a third (19 percent), according to the head of the trade association. Meanwhile, Sebastian Theissing-Matei from Greenpeace Austria views the reporting requirement as “a good first step”, but suggests it should also be extended to large food production and catering companies.

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