Denmark Combats Food Waste


A champion of the new gastronomic cuisine thanks to Chef René Redzepi, founder of the legendary Noma restaurant, Denmark is used to making its European neighbours jealous of its food. But this little Nordic country has also pipped other European countries at the post in the race to eliminate food waste. World Food Day 2016, on 16 October, is a good opportunity to talk about this globally important topic. When one third of world food production – equal to 1.3 billion tonnes of food – is wasted every year, anything that can be done to combat this wastage must be done. Globally, eliminating this issue would save nearly $750 billion and reduce carbon emissions by 10%. Given this, the Danes’ initiatives could well be the model to follow…


Stop Splid Af Mad: a pioneering initiative

In 2008 Stop Spild Af Mad (stop wasting food) – a Facebook page that has now become the equivalent of a consumer association – was born. In an interview with The Guardian last April, founder Selina Juul remembers being “very surprised by the quantity of food wasted in Denmark.” So she launched a Facebook page where she gave practical advice on how to avoid food waste, like “making a shopping list before going to the supermarket, or taking a photo of what’s in your fridge, if you don’t have time.”

In the space of three months, the movement had gained momentum. Low cost food chain store REMA 1000 decided to replace its quantity promotions (e.g. Buy three for the price of two) with promotions on single items. That same year, Selina Juul addressed the European Parliament to stand up for the anti-waste movement. Since then, the trend has taken root and progressively given way to other initiatives encouraged by proactive policies.


The arsenal of an anti-waste country

In Denmark, there are heaps of projects promoting responsible consumption. These include Too Good to Go, a start-up company that uses a smartphone app to put restaurants and customers in contact so the latter can get leftovers at a low price between services or just before closing. Restaurant Rub & Stub cooks using food taken off supermarket shelves because of its impending use by date.

And not to be outdone, food banks have also stepped up: Kolding Madhjælp, a community of volunteers committed to food aid, receives and distributes products given by supermarkets as well as smaller donations from individuals who would have otherwise thrown the food out or left it in their cupboards. These various initiatives are no coincidence: an entire ecosystem has been set up to combat food wastage in a joint and complementary manner.

The Danish government is promoting these initiatives as it believes in the long-term savings to be gained. Over 5 million Krone (some €670,000) in subsidies have been provided to projects tackling the issue of waste along the entire production chain.


 Tomorrow: Will anti-waste become a way of life?

Since 2010, thanks to all the policies and projects sparked off by Stop Splid Af Mad, Denmark has reduced food waste by 25%. It seems this is the start of a long-term trend in Danish society. A final clue that this new awareness is here to stay: a food surplus supermarket has just been founded. We Food opened its doors in Copenhagen in February 2016.

All products are donated by supermarkets that cannot sell them past their expiry dates, and We Food sells them for 30% to 50% cheaper. The store has been a victim of its own success already and is planning to open a second store in Aarhus in 2017. So much to inspire neighbouring countries to start their own virtuous trend!

Picture from Pexels