Denmark launches funding to fight food waste

Denmark has announced a subsidies scheme to combat food waste. The scheme was launched by the country’s minister for food and the environment, Esben Lunde Larsen.

A subsidy pool worth more than DKK 5 million (almost $750,000) will be distributed to projects trying to tackle waste throughout the food chain, from production to consumption.

“Each year, consumers and retailers alone waste enough food to fill 9,730 supermarket trolleys every day,” Lunde Larsen says. “And there’s more, because food waste arises in all parts of the chain from production, to businesses, to wholesalers, to supermarkets to homes.”

The subsidy scheme comes on the back of recent success at reducing food waste in Denmark. The Agriculture and Food Council said last year that Denmark had reduced food waste by 25 percent over the past five years.

However, the average Dane still wastes more than a kilogram of food each week—with the average household tossing out food worth DKK 3,200 (about $480). “Throwing away such valuable food is a waste of money and it is an environmental problem,” Lunde Larsen says.

Selina Juul, of the leading Danish food-waste organisation Stop Spild Af Mad (Stop Wasting Food), welcomed the scheme and said the focus should be on preventing food waste, not just dealing with it. She also applauded the “results-oriented” aim of the scheme and its intention to support scaleable initiatives.

“The fight against food waste has almost become an industry in Denmark. But for the most part, its focus—on treating the symptoms—is wrong,” she says. “When a local food producer donates a ton of cookies to the local refugee center, it creates more headlines in the local newspaper than if they’d optimized production to completely prevent wastage. We need to fight food waste at its roots, not just look for easy short-term solutions and treat the symptoms.”

The new subsidy scheme isn’t the Danish food ministry’s first drive to reduce food waste. It has previously conducted campaigns to educate consumers about best-before and use-by labels, and supported collaboration between food producers and kitchens so that irregular-shaped or wrong-sized vegetables, which would otherwise be rejected, are used.

“I hope that this will make a notable difference to food waste,” Lunde Larsen says. “We’ll be supporting projects that can show that they really do make a difference and projects that can be expanded to a larger scale, for example.”

Other initiatives aimed at reducing food waste in Denmark include WeFood, a supermarket that sells surplus food which would otherwise be thrown away by other shops; Rub & Stub, a restaurant that cooks meals using surplus food; and Too Good To Go, an app that connects diners with restaurants selling food such as salad and sushi for rock-bottom prices at the end of the day.