Food Waste Around the World Episode 5: Italy
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.
Hello, welcome to this interview and thank you for participating in the project ‘food waste around the world’. To start, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and where are you from?
Hello, I am Andrea and I’m from Siracusa, a small city in the south of Italy. I recently graduated from the University of Catania in History, Politics and International Relations. I would like to continue my study with international cooperation and in the future, I would like to work for an organisation or NGO which deals with Human Rights and the environment.
Okay, very interesting, good luck with that! And can you tell me what the food waste situation is in your country? Is that a big issue in Italy?
I think that there are three main levels to consider that are: food production, distribution and consumption. So, at the production level, a large amount of food is wasted, mainly vegetables and fruits only because they are non considered very valuable. At the distribution level, still, a lot of food is wasted but each region has its food bank, which collects food surplus from markets, supermarkets and restaurants. This food is then re-distributed to the poorest families and people in need. At the consumption level, I recently read that 1 out of 4 Italians is aware of the problems connected to food waste but each person on average wastes 1 kg of food daily. So, this is a huge amount of food waste at the end of the year which is translated also in a big economic loss, being our economy strongly based also on the primary sector.
Plus, we are used to having a pretty big quantity of food for each meal and always bread on the table.
That’s a huge amount of food waste indeed. Well, you started your internship with Sapient, but you haven't been here in the Netherlands yet because of the Coronavirus, but previously you told me that you lived in Portugal in the past, so maybe you can tell me if you noticed some differences on how big the food waste issue is and how it is tackled between Italy and Portugal.
Sure, in Portugal, like here in Italy, there are many NGOs and small communities dealing with the food waste issue and I'm sure that there is a food bank that works just like in Italy. Intuitively, I could notice that the Portuguese culture is very similar to the Italian one and also there, the economy is very much based on the primary sector, so I guess the food waste situation is comparable.
Okay, and going back to Italy, we talked about the major sources of food waste, but what about food waste fighters? Who do you think is driving the action to reduce food waste in the country? Is that the government, small organisation, communities?
The government right now is doing much about the issue. So, mainly, the fight against food waste is driven by NGOs and other organisations. The problem is that all these organizations work independently in the various regions therefore the resulting action is fragmented and less effective. Also, they are not distributed equally throughout the country, I'm from the South and here there aren’t as many organizations as in the North or simply they don’t have enough attention.
For example, the new app ‘Too good to go’ has been launched in different cities but all in the North and Sicily it works just in Catania and Palermo. Also, Disco Soup Day, which is a great initiative, is not spread everywhere.
I see, so the action is not homogeneous. Now, I’m Italian as well and I’m curious to know your opinion, do you think that food waste is part of the Italian tradition, or it is something that came out just in the last few generations?
I think that is a very recent habit. Our grandfathers and grandmothers wouldn’t waste as much as we do. They knew the value of food and they were used to preserve it as much and in the best way possible simply because they didn’t live in our consumerist era where for some categories of people are used to have everything as granted. This I think changed from the generation of our parents, which are the average adult now.
So, can we say that besides organizations, the real food waste fighters are the grandmas?
Okay, and are you aware of any specific initiative that is addressing food waste? You already mentioned the app ‘too good to go’, do you know any other, maybe in your region?
In Sicily and my city, there are food banks saving food surplus mostly from supermarkets and I think that that works pretty good.
And do you think that the government will take more action in the future and maybe food waste will become a priority in their agenda sooner or later?
Since 2016 there is a law which simplifies the process of collecting food surplus from restaurants and this helped a lot in decreasing the amount of food waste produced. But of course, we can do more because right now, food waste is surely not a priority in the governmental agenda. So we can do more, especially following the steps of independent organisations and NGOs that are doing a really good job.
Right, and what about the Italian population? Do you see the population as a potential active part in the fight against food waste, are they interested in this issue or not?
I think that the situation could improve by providing proper education on the subject, starting with schools and universities. We could in this way raise the awareness between young people so that they can bring with them the message, apply it and transmit it, doing something good for the people and the planet. I believe that if you start to provide awareness and education on this kind of matters from a young age, like from primary school, you can change thing.
Yeah, I completely agree. So you propose a mix of bottom-up and top-down actions, coming from both the population and government and mainly focus on education, especially of young people.
Yes, I think that this would significantly improve the situation and it is perfectly possible. Like old people are aware of the value of food and act consequently wasting virtually nothing, young people can do the same and now we are also aware of many other good reasons to do so. Also, organizations should gain force and attention to work better and spread their positive work for our society.
Yes, we skipped one generation or two, but we can make up for that! Okay, that would be it then, thank you very much!
My pleasure, thank you for having me!
Interviewer: Ludovica Viva
Interviewed: Andrea di Bernardo
Editor and writer: Ludovica Viva
Organizations mentioned in the interview: