Food Waste Around the World Episode 3: Romania
Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding
how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Silvia from Romania
Hi Silvia. Thank you for participating in this interview series. To start, could you tell me a little bit about yourself and where are you from?
Hello, I’m Silvia and I am from Romania. I first came to the Netherlands to do my Master in Organizational Psychology and then I moved to Amsterdam to finish my studies with an internship. I am currently an intern at Sapient Social & Environmental Enterprises being a member of the Talent Department for the Healthy and Affordable project. I've always been interested in any subject about the environment and making a change for a better future. So, that is why I'm concerned in reducing food waste.
Nice. And how is the food waste situation in Romania? Is that a big issue?
Right now the food waste situation in Romania is not so good. I recently found out that about 2.55 million tons of food are wasted every year. And this means that each person is throwing away around 129 kg of food annually. Most of the food that is thrown away is cooked food, fruits, vegetables and bakery products. In Romania we waste almost as much as the European average, even though our incomes are much lower! I personally find this disturbing.
I think that the biggest issue related to food waste in Romania at the moment, is the lack of awareness of the people around this issue. They are not aware of the consequences it may cause and they just buy and cook much more food than they actually need. I think that this behavior is related to our culture because we like to have large meals even if we know we can't eat such big quantities. For example, in restaurants, the portions are always very large and you simply cannot eat all of it. Therefore, the food is going to be thrown away.
In addition, we eat a lot of bread with every meal and since bread doesn't last very long, it ends up in the trash most of the time. For example, my grandparents buy bread almost every day, but they live in the countryside so the bread they don't eat is fed to chickens and that's good. But in the city, most of the food and bread surplus is eventually thrown away.
Interesting. And thinking about the time you spent in the Netherlands, have you noticed differences between how the issue of food waste is perceived and handled here and in Romania?
I noticed that in the Netherlands, there are more organizations that are dealing with this issue and people seem to be more aware of the problem. Moreover, more attention is given to waste management and recycling in general. In my country instead, recycling is neither very popular nor practiced.
In your home country, which communication channels drive the most attention on the food waste issue? TV, newspapers or is it more a discussion at the community level?
I think it's on TV, but not as much as it should be. Some organizations try to raise awareness among the population and for example, in schools through workshops. Maybe the next generations will get the chance of being more educated about that.
And these organizations that you mentioned, are they governmental, NGOs or independent groups?
I don’t know exactly; what I know for sure is that food waste related non-governmental organizations exist. The government doesn't do much about this issue.
Ok, I see. And is there any particular NGO which you're familiar with?
I know about the Bucharest Food Bank, which was established in 2016 and that supported the development of other Food Banks in Romania. Their mission is to collect food from private businesses and retailers to then give it to people in need, for example, people with disabilities, abused women, or poor people.
Yeah, that's really interesting. So it's mostly the food banks that are handling the problem. And which age group do you think is more aware of food waste related issues, the younger or the older generation?
I think that, in the era of information, the younger generation is providing for its own awareness. But that's just my opinion. However, researching a bit, I found that the people throwing away most of the food are under 35 years old. That was an unexpected discovery for me because I thought that young people would be more aware since they have more access to information about all the negative consequences of food waste.
That's an interesting point. You mentioned some initiatives at the community level, but do you think that your country is giving enough attention to the issue of food waste overall?
I think that currently there is not enough attention and visibility of this issue. People are just not aware that this really is a problem. They are not aware of its consequences. But I think that in the future, things will slowly change because as I said, I noticed that there are some actions aimed at educating young people.
Yeah. And what else do you think could be done in your country to improve the situation? Maybe something that you've seen during your permanence in the Netherlands, which could be applied back in at home?
I think there could be more organizations to deal with the problem and raise awareness on the topic. Plus, at a governmental level, there should be some adjustments aiming at producing specific legislation and regulation targeted on reducing food waste.
Absolutely. Anything else that you would like to add? Maybe some interesting facts discovered in any of your previous research?
As I said, I was surprised to find that the majority throwing away the most food consists of highly educated people. Because usually, you would expect that people with higher education would also be the most informed ones. But I think that's because education is not really focusing on food waste. Maybe this is also because the more educated people usually earn more money so they can spend more money on food - while they can also afford to throw it away.
Okay, that would be it then. Thank you very much.
Thanks for having me!
Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo
Interviewer: Imaan Faruqui
Interviewed: Silvia Szabo
Reviewer: Ludovica Viva