5 Countries Leading the Fight to End Food Waste

5 Countries Leading the Fight to End Food Waste

Food waste is a global problem with local solutions. What that means is, different geographical locations will always have different cultures, infrastructures, challenges and opportunities. 

Because of that, how each area tackles food waste must be tailored to what will work best for them. And, if each country, state, city and household can do their part to reduce waste, we will fix this problem.

Many countries are finding highly effective methods of reducing food waste and there is much we can learn from their efforts. And hopefully, adapt to our own needs.

Here are 5 countries leading the fight!


In 2016, the French government essentially banned food waste in grocery stores. Primarily in response to a spike in demand at food banks and other charities (spurred by an increase in unemployment and homelessness), France made it a law that grocery stores must donate edible food instead of throwing it out.

Any food nearing or past its best before date, which is still safe to eat, was previously being thrown in the garbage and often intentionally spoiled with bleach or other chemicals to prevent “dumpster diving”.

Today, grocery store managers caught violating the law face hefty fines and even jail time, which has led to a drastic reduction in food waste.

The country is also devoting considerable funding and effort to promoting sustainable farming and reforestation around the world.


The Norwegian government and the country’s food industry have signed an agreement to cut food waste in half by 2030.

Together, they are changing the way consumers understand “use by” and “best before” dates, and the way grocery stores handle food nearing these dates. Grocery stores now lean more towards donating and discounting such foods (rather than tossing them) and through campaigns and education, consumers are now more likely to take advantage of such discounts.

The country even has a grocery store dedicated entirely to selling food nearing or past its best before dates!

In addition, a variety of apps and technologies are emerging to help grocery stores, consumers and charities ensure food is being used efficiently, rather than ending up in the trash.


Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of a Russian-born graphic designer, Denmark reduced food waste across the country by 25% in just 5 years!

A nonprofit organization called Stop Spild Af Mad (“stop food waste” in English) has been spreading awareness, creating impactful campaigns and encouraging drastic change at all stages of the food waste chain.

Denmark now has the highest number of food waste initiatives of any European country and the proof of their effectiveness is in the numbers.


Like many affluent countries, Japan has a serious food waste problem. They also have increasing numbers of people in need. What they don’t have, is a lot of land for farming and landfills. That makes for very unsustainable food culture and is perhaps why the country is taking food waste so seriously.

Since the early 2000’s many initiatives have cropped up to tackle the problem. For example, the country now has a national food bank organization called Second Harvest dedicated to rescuing edible food from grocery stores and other retailers and quickly redistributing it to people in need. There are also initiatives to offer bonus store points on purchases of food nearing best before dates and the recent Food Recycling Law, which aims to divert food waste towards centres that convert it to compost, animal feed and energy.

Perhaps most importantly, the country is focusing on education, from elementary school up to university, in an effort to change the national understanding of the problem, and raise the next generation to be even better at reducing food waste.

South Korea

In just 4 years, South Korea’s capital city decreased food waste by 10% or 300 tons per day! How did they do it? They started by making people pay up.

In 2016, Seoul implemented a regulation requiring citizens to pay the recycling fee for their food waste - a fee based on the amount of waste. This regulation has been so successful that many other cities and provinces across the country have enacted similar practices, with great success.

How it works is, special bins around the city are set up to weigh and record food waste. Citizens simply dump in their waste and receive their bill. The waste is then converted to animal feed or energy. Citizens can also throw food waste in the trash, if they purchase special garbage bags, or take food waste to one of many compost bins, which also charge a small fee.

Not surprisingly, when people have to pay for what they waste, they are quite motivated to waste less!

Food waste is a problem that affects us all. We may be separated by borders and distance, but we are all citizens of the same planet. A planet we have not been taking care and that cannot be replaced. Let’s commit to learning from each other and inspiring each other to be better and better. If we all do our part, we can turn this around. 

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