The Netherlands, together with Germany, Spain and Hungary, is one of the countries where the broad, overarching approach to halving food waste and optimizing the value of (unavoidable) residual flows is being developed and tested. The gathered knowledge and insights of the EU-program REFRESH will be used in this approach.
The research program REFRESH (2015-2019) focuses on strategic cooperation between parties in the chain and uses an systems approach based on national Frameworks for Action. Central of the philosophy is that companies take responsibility for setting goals and taking real action. Changing legislation and removing barriers to new solutions to food waste are also at the top of the list of priorities. The approaches and results of the four pilot countries will be compared within REFRESH.
"A coordinated public-private partnership between committed companies, governments and societal organizations is the key to less food waste and optimal use of residual flows", emphasizes Toine Timmermans coordinator of REFRESH and program manager Food Waste Reduction at Wageningen University & Research. "Otherwise, initiatives will remain too small to have any effect."
In 2017 the Dutch Taskforce Circular Economy in Food was launched; an initiative of Wageningen University & Research, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, and the Alliance for Sustainable Food. The taskforce is a first step in realizing a systematic approach in the Netherlands. Since its foundation the initiative has developed into a coalition of partners from the entire chain: SMEs, food multinationals and other public and private parties. The coalition partners recently agreed to coordinate and connect their anti-food-waste activities. Together, they have drawn up a joint agenda and the action plan 'Together Against Food Waste'. "The Netherlands is currently at the forefront when it comes to structured monitoring and joint ambition and involvement," says Timmermans. It is expected that there will also be a structured form of cooperation in the other countries, which will continue after the REFRESH project completes in June 2019.
The blueprint can be implemented in other countries in Europe, and beyond. Some EU-countries are already interested. "Interested parties will follow a workshop in which they learn how to set up a voluntary cooperative such as ours," says Timmermans. "Applying the REFRESH blueprint needs to be tailored to each participant and depends, among other things, on how companies, governments and social organizations prefer to work together in complex projects."
Timmermans hopes that as many organizations as possible will join together in the fight against food waste. "Learn from the knowledge and experience of the pioneers. Then you'll be up and running much faster."
In REFRESH, funded by the European Horizon2020 program, 26 parties from 12 European countries are working together with China towards Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 (Halving the amount of food wasted per person between now and 2030, both in the supermarket and by the consumer). In addition, product losses must be spread throughout the entire chain. At the same time, the value of unavoidable residual flows and reused or recycled packaging materials must be increased.