Food Waste Around the World Episode 4: Spain
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 Sara from Spain!
Hello. Thank you for participating in this interview. To start, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and where are you from?
Hi, I'm Sara and I'm from Valencia in Spain. I went to Germany to study Social Sciences for the last three years and then I came to Amsterdam where I started my internship at Sapient as a talent coordinator. Unfortunately, after just a couple of weeks, I had to go back to Spain because of the Covid-19 crisis and now I’m carrying on the internship from here working remotely. Something about me is that I love to travel and to meet new people.
Okay great! And about food waste, what is the situation in Spain? Is that a big issue drawing a lot of attention or you would describe it as a minor issue?
Well in Spain, we have a new government now, I think we got it last year, which is more concerned with environmental issues. Indeed, since then, the food waste issue has drawn major attention. The government really wants to raise awareness on the topic among the population. However, 18% of the food that is bought in Spain still gets wasted, which is nearly 3 million tonnes of food every year. Only in my city, Valencia, it's around 290,000 tonnes a year or 5600 t per week. So it's a lot of food that gets wasted.
Well, yeah, it sounds like a lot of food. And even though you stayed just for a few weeks in the Netherlands, could you notice some differences in how food waste is perceived and/or handled here compared to Spain?
Well, what I noticed most in Spain is that like my parents, for example, or the parents of my friends always buy something new and then if it doesn't get eaten in five days, they're like: ‘oh, nobody wants it’, and they immediately throw it away. Since I've lived alone in the Netherlands, I don't know what it's the typical people’s behavior there. When I was living in Germany, my boyfriend and I always tried to use leftovers to make new dishes and we tried to never throw away anything. In Spain food waste is mainly at the consumer level, people maybe are not aware and so they don't care that much. They don't think it's such a big problem to throw away some food. I think this is also because of misleading expiration dates on products. People think that they are going to get sick immediately also if the label says ‘best before’ so they just throw everything out and buy the same thing again and then. In this way, so much food gets wasted.
And who is really driving their attention and raising the awareness (if this is done) on food waste and food waste-related issues in Spain? Do you feel that it is more the government or like NGOs and communities?
I think it is both, there is like a pretty big initiative that's called Yo no desperdicio which means "I don't waste". This initiative is meant for food and carries on many projects. In addition, the newly elected government, that as I said it is more concerned with environmental issues, has also started a plan against food waste. It's a work in progress, but they started planning informative days about food waste and they tried to implement like a zero-tolerance policy to discourage waste production. But as I said, they're just starting and now with the Covid-19 situation, they haven't done any of these things yet. So it's like, yeah, they're trying but right now they have other priorities. Then, besides, governmental or local initiatives’ efforts, there are international organizations that are everywhere like To Good to Go through which you can buy leftovers for retailers and restaurants for a reduced fee.
Oh, great to hear that To Good to Go is also active in Spain!
Yes, many restaurants and cafes participate in the scheme and I really enjoy going there picking up cupcakes or snacks!
Okay, nice. So you said that the government is taking action but it is still in the beginning, then there international and local initiatives, but are you aware of some action at the community level? Like the initiative that you mentioned before, Yo no desperdicio, what is their scale and what do they do exactly?
Well, I think that they are active at the national level and they try to make people aware of the problem. In addition, they try to use the food that would be otherwise wasted for different things.
Sounds very interesting! Now let’s talk about the future, what do you think is gonna is going to happen with this new government, food waste is gonna become an important topic on the agenda or past the initial hype it is gonna ends up in the wayside again?
I think it will depend also on how the next elections will go. In Spain, we have two main parties. One is very conservative and doesn't care about any of this. This party was governing until last year. The other party, the one that has been elected now is more environmentally friendly and concerned with this kind of issue. So if this party gets re-elected, I think it will have the time to really change things, especially past this Covid-19 crisis where food waste is not a priority. But if it doesn't get re-elected, then I think we will step back to the same situation without making any progress.
Yeah, I see. Okay, and one last question, what do you think is the most important action that should be done in your country to reduce food waste?
Since the people are the ones throwing everything away, I think that maybe we could start with education on the topic in schools. We have a lot of projects about how to recycle plastic for example, but we don’t have anything on how to recycle food or how to use surplus food. I think that the older generations maybe don't want to learn any more or anyways they are more difficult to reach. So we should start with the children and the teenagers so that in the future everyone will care about this issue.
Yes, that's a really good idea! Okay. That would be it. Thank you very much, Sara!
Thank you for having me!
Editor and writer: Ludovica Viva
Interviewer: Ludovica Viva
Interviewed: Sara Riede