'If we decided it was our goal to reduce food waste, we’d do it' Skip to content

‘If we decided it was our goal to reduce food waste, we’d do it’

By Larissa Kyzer

Photo: Photo by Foerster, Wikimedia CC0.

Food waste in Iceland is not only a climate problem, says Minister for the Environment Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, it’s also disrespectful. The Minister says the Icelandic public needs to completely change its attitude towards this serious problem, and more creative solutions need to be considered to deal with it. RÚV reports.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of the world’s food is thrown away. Food waste has long been a major topic of concern in Iceland; the Environment Agency in Iceland has found that 7 out of 10 Icelanders say they want to do their part to reduce food waste. Moreover, reducing food waste is one of the major prongs of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ national policy on waste, which is in effect from 2016-2027. The policy is underpinned by the “ideology of the circular economy, where the priority is to reduce the creation of waste and thereby decrease the demand for finite natural resources.”

But although food waste was the first of nine focal points that this policy targeted from 2016-2017, thus far, there’s been little observable change in the actual amount of food wasted in the country over the years.


Iceland’s National Policy on Waste Timeline, 2016-2027; via the Environment Agency of Iceland

Guðlaugur Þór says it’s hard to legislate controls or punishments related to food wastage. What’s really needed, therefore, is a complete attitude shift amongst consumers, retailers, and producers—the whole chain must stand together, he says. It’s a matter of public will above all else.

“We Icelanders can be very quick to adapt to anything and everything, so if we decided it was our goal to reduce food waste, we’d do it.”

The Environment Agency’s website, Together Against Waste, is part of broader awareness-raising campaigns and includes many suggestions for ways in which individuals can do their part to reduce food waste, from taking a picture of what you have in the fridge before you go grocery shopping to cooking from leftovers to “using your nose” to determine if food is still good after its “Best By” date has passed.

One creative solution that has been suggested to aid in food waste reduction is to open stores that specifically sell food items that are approaching their “Sell By” dates.

However the issue is addressed, addressed it must be, says the minister. “One third of all food [in the world] is thrown away,” concludes Guðlaugur Þór. “We can all see that that’s unacceptable.”

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