This article is part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” campaign, an ongoing project spotlighting the world’s waste crisis and how we can begin to solve it.
France has little tolerance for trashing perfectly edible food, and its firm stance is paying off.
The European country has become a world leader in minimizing food waste, according to a new report on global food sustainability.
Released Dec. 1, the Food Sustainability Index ranks how well countries are performing when it comes to food waste, agricultural sustainability and addressing nutrition challenges. The report analyzed all the countries in the Group of 20, which includes the largest global economies, and examined five nations from underrepresented regions, as well as 16 cities.
France scored highest on the index’s metric for efforts aimed at curbing food waste. The United States came in sixth in that category, and Saudi Arabia came in last place out of the 25 countries on the list.
The first report of its kind, the Food Sustainability Index ― created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and analysis group, and think tank Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition ― aims to highlight the policies that are helping the world get closer to achieving the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a list of targets adopted last year which aim to end global injustices such as hunger and extreme poverty.
Another aim of the Food Sustainability Index is to spread awareness about consumption habits and teach people how they can better protect the planet.
The focus on food waste comes at a time when 800 million people are living with hunger, yet one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.
France has succeeded in demonstrating that ending food waste, and addressing hunger, go hand in hand. It also showed that viable solutions for both issues are right in plain sight.
In February, for example, France declared it illegal for its supermarkets to throw out food that’s nearing its expiration date. The stores can either compost or donate it to charity.
The country also banned putting expiration dates on certain categories of goods, such as wine and vinegar. Expiration dates are often random and don’t necessarily signify when a food may be close to spoiling.
Small-scale programs have also had a major effect. In 2014, Intermarche, Farce’s third largest supermarket, started selling “ugly” produce ― the fruits and vegetables that are fine to consume, but may be misshapen or bruised. The program reached 13 million people after one month.
Despite such isolated advances, the authors of the Food Sustainability Index report believe that much more needs to change before the world begins curbing its waste in more effective ways ― and they hope France can be a model.
“The food retail industry is rising to the challenge of food waste through several measures: clearer expiration dates on produce, partnerships with charities to donate excess foods, and use of food waste as fuel are among the measures used by the leading food system stakeholders,” the authors noted. “But legislation, following France’s lead, will help ensure these are not disparate and one-off initiatives but part of a comprehensive strategy to slash waste.”
Here are the 10 countries that scored highest in report’s anti-food waste category:
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