Is Switzerland set to introduce a law banning food waste?

Is Switzerland set to introduce a law banning food waste?
Bananas in a supermarket (illustration). Image: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
A proposal approved in Swiss parliament could force food vendors to hand over all edible food to charity organisations or individuals.

Food waste in supermarkets and other retailers could soon be a thing of the past in Switzerland after a motion to scrap it narrowly cleared the Public Health Committee of the Council of States. 

The motion, tabled by Martina Munz, of the Social Democratic Party (SP), plans to force food retailers to hand over all edible food that would otherwise be thrown away. 

'Ethically required and absolutely ecological'

Passing by a narrow majority of six votes to five on the Committee, Munz argued that the proposal was “ethically required and absolutely ecological”. 

While the plan still needs majority approval in parliament as a whole, it has already gained public support. In 2015, Switzerland committed to halving food losses by 2030. 

READ MORE: French supermarkets to give away unsold food waste 

Pursuant to the proposal, food retailers would donate it to registered charities or make it available for pick up for individuals in difficult economic circumstances. 

Munz supported establishing an identification scheme whereby churches or other charities could provide these individuals with an ID allowing them to pick up the food. 

As reported by Swiss daily 20 Minutes, many supermarkets in Switzerland currently cover this otherwise edible food in washing powder or coffee grounds in order to discourage ‘dumpster diving’.

Swiss supermarkets often spoil their food on purpose to discourage 'dumpster diving'. Photo: JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

'Too much work'

Swiss food retailers are however against the scheme, saying it would create too much additional work for what is a relatively small percentage of food waste currently. 

They also point to initiatives like the ‘Too Good To Go’ app which allows customers to buy food at a discounted price on the day it expires as evidence that the new law would be unnecessary. 

A spokesperson for supermarket chain Denner Thomas Kaderli told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that it would cost supermarkets extra in staffing and security requirements, while there would also be legal hurdles. 

“In addition to security aspects, this also affects the working hours of sales staff, who would be required by law to close the shop afterwards to provide services that only a very small part of customers could demand, and at the same time ensure that unauthorised persons would be excluded,” he said 

“There are also legal questions. Who should check what is still consumable? And who is liable in the event of health damage due to expired food?”

A spokesperson for supermarket chain Migros told the NZZ that only 1.4 percent of food from supermarkets ends up wasted. 

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