Arash Derambarsh, a local councillor who kickstarted fight against food waste in his Paris suburb, wants to convince more countries to follow France’s example
A councillor whose campaign against food waste led to a law forcing French supermarkets to donate unwanted food to charity has set his sights on getting similar legislation passed globally.
Arash Derambarsh said it was “scandalous and absurd” that food is wasted and in some cases deliberately spoiled while the homeless, poor and unemployed go hungry.
Derambarsh – a municipal councillor for the “Divers Droit” (diverse right) in Courbevoie, north-west of Paris – persuaded French MPs to adopt the regulation after a petition gained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support in just four months.
The amendment was approved as part of a wider law – the Loi Macron – that covers economic activity and equality in France and is expected to be passed by the national assembly on Tuesday, entering the statute books shortly afterwards.
It will bar supermarkets from throwing away food approaching best-before dates and deliberately poisoning products with bleach to stop them being retrieved by people foraging through bins.
Now Derambarsh wants to convince European countries and the wider world to adopt similar bans. “Food is the basis of life, it is an elementary factor in our existence,” he told the Guardian.
“I have been insulted and attacked and accused of being naive and idealistic, but I became a local councillor because I wanted to help people. Perhaps it is naive to be concerned about other human beings, but I know what it is like to be hungry.
“When I was a law student living on about €400 a month after I’d paid my rent, I used to have one proper meal a day around 5pm. I’d eat pasta, or potatoes, but it’s hard to study or work if you are hungry and always thinking about where the next meal will come from.”
Derambarsh started his campaign by collecting and distributing unwanted food from his local supermarket. “Every day we’d help around 100 people. Half would be single mothers with several children, pensioners or public workers on low salaries, the other half would be those living on the streets or in shelters,” he said.
Derambarsh is planning to table the issue – via the campaign group ONE, founded by U2 singer Bono – when the United Nations discusses its Millennium development goals to end poverty in September as well as at the G20 economic summit in Turkey in November and the COP21 environment conference in Paris in December.
An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food is binned in France each year – 67% of it by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The figure for food waste across the EU is 89mtonnes while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.