The European Committee of the Regions has once again called on the European Commission to set more specific targets on food waste with a view to achieving a 30% reduction by 2025. "Meeting the target does not require any specific financial support or budget, because reducing waste saves money and nature at the same time", underlined Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE), a member of Lapinlahti municipal council and rapporteur for the opinion on food waste, at the 8th meeting of the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Natural Resources (NAT), held in Innsbruck on 10 May.
In the past few years the issue of food waste has attracted a great deal of attention from the public, businesses and NGOs in the Member States and at EU level. It is estimated that one third of the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, equivalent to the food produced on 28% of the world’s arable land. This waste entails huge economic and environmental costs and devalues agriculture and food production. The European Commission included the issue of food waste in its Circular Economy Package.
Regions and cities play a pivotal role by designing effective food waste prevention programmes, raising awareness and implementing practical initiatives on the ground. "Reducing food waste at all levels of the process is one of the most efficient and effective methods that local and regional authorities can deploy, swiftly and directly, to achieve ecologically and economically sustainable development. There are a variety of means and innovative local initiatives for achieving the goal, already advocated by the CoR, of reducing food waste by 30% at EU level", emphasised Ossi Martikainen.
In this draft opinion, local and regional representatives present their recommendations as to how local and regional authorities can contribute to the reduction of food waste:
public procurement rules could contain clauses aimed at reducing and preventing food waste;
local, regional and seasonal products should be used for catering services;
school education should include the issue of food waste reduction as part of the curriculum, for instance through theme days, study visits and students learning programmes;
the reduction and prevention of food waste could also be included in lifelong learning programmes.
Raising awareness and implementing practical initiatives on the ground will help bring about the cultural and economic change needed to reduce and eliminate food waste.
During the meeting, local government officials exchanged views on the two working documents :
"Tourism as a driving force for regional cooperation across the EU" - Current trends show that Europe's position is slipping and that the European tourism industry is facing challenges requiring specific solutions. The rapporteur, Hanspeter Wagner (AT/EPP), has developed a questionnaire on European tourism industry's key challenges, addressed to political decision-makers at local, regional, national and European level, tourism businesses, and tourism analysts. The aim is to integrate the findings into the own-initiative opinion. During the debate, local and regional representatives discussed the main problems that the tourism industry would have to solve by 2025 if it was to ensure the sector's continued development, how to harness the power of tourism for the additional goals of developing a stronger sense of European identity and strengthening European citizenship, and how to promote the principle of subsidiarity in the field of tourism.
"The need for and way towards an EU strategy on alcohol-related issues" - Alcohol is the third leading cause globally for premature death and ill health - even surpassing tobacco. In her working documentthe rapporteur Ewa-May Karlsson (SE/ALDE) stresses the need for a future European strategy on alcohol. When working on the strategy, it is important to take account of the different conditions and traditions in individual regions and municipalities in Europe. CoR members shared their experience and expertise in this field, as the regional and local authorities are responsible for the majority of activities aimed at limiting the damage caused by alcohol consumption. During the debate, members raised issues such as consumer information, marketing and advertising, access to alcohol, financial incentives, importance of the education, excessive consumption of alcohol by young people and road safety.