/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Can I have a doggy bag, please?

New laws in Italy will make it easier for businesses to donate expired food to charities and for farmers to give away unsold produce. But is promoting the use of doggy bags a step too far?

Italy has just passed a bill that aims to take a huge chunk out of the five million tonnes of food waste the country generates every year, and I think that’s wonderful news.

The bill makes it easier for restaurants and shops to cut down on the food they throw away by allowing them to donate food that’s past its sell-by-date. And money will be spent improving the food supply chain and packaging to limit waste before products even get to shoppers.

It sounds like real progress.

Taking home the leftovers

One part of the bill that really appeals to me is encouraging people to ask for ‘family bags’ or ‘doggy bags’, when eating out. Apparently this is far from the norm in Italy, so it might be a hard sell.

Personally, I always ask to take leftovers home from restaurants whenever it’s practical (so, not if I’m about to go straight to the theatre after dinner, for example). I’d rather enjoy the remains of my meal the next day than try to scoff the lot when I’m already full or see it thrown away. Food is so precious to me I can’t stand to see it wasted.

I hope Italy’s bill really helps changing habits and that it encourages other countries to follow suit.

How to eat Danishly

Where I live in Denmark, we’re not really encouraged to separate our food waste, and our rubbish bags get burned to make energy and heating.

But recently I have noticed a drive to cut down on supermarket food waste – from offering food that’s close to its use-by date at crazy discounts, to selling single pork chops or burgers so people living alone don’t have to buy more than they need.

Food waste is definitely seen as a problem here, and this is encouraging people to be innovative.

One of my favourite initiatives is an app called Too Good to Go, which lets restaurants, cafes and bakeries sell off ‘lucky dip’ bags or boxes of food to app users for very low prices that they can pick up before closing time, preventing the food from being thrown away. The app started life in Denmark and is from this year also being rolled out in the UK.

Where my partner works, a warm lunch from a local restaurant is provided every day, along with bread and various toppings. Staff are invited to take leftovers home to cut down on waste, and we’re very happy to oblige. It’s one of the nicer ways to do our bit for the environment.

What do you think of the new ideas in Italy? Are you a fan of the doggy bag?

This is a guest post by Katie. All opinions are Katie’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

Rather than promote doggie bags in restaurants I’d prefer to have sensible portions and order only as much as I want to eat. It’s otherwise an expensive way of eating. But I do like the idea of shops selling near-date goods at reduced prices, selling small quantities at pro-rata prices, and the “lucky dip” bag is interesting; on the way back from the weekly school sports day I passed a bakers that sold “penny buns” – a small bag of damaged small cakes. Not healthy (but it didn’t kill me) but a nice treat.

We should start using all produce, not discarding “mis-shapen” veg for example. Providing it is perfectly eatable why chuck it out in the name of uniformity?

Sell-by dates seems one of the big obstacles. How much gets thrown away because we fear that having gone past its labelled date we dare not eat it? How can we deal with this waste? Perhaps the FSA could look into this (if they haven’t).The EC have linked to some interesting initiatives:
ec.europa.eu/geninfo/query/resultaction.jsp?QueryText=food+sell+by+date&sbtSearch=Search&swlang=en

Member

If we are serious about decreasing waste, banning multi-buy offers on fresh food, particularly food that is unsuitable for freezing. Rather than selling two items for the price of one, just half the price.

The most ridiculous example I have encountered was Tesco selling one cucumber for 90p and two for £1. That stopped a couple of years ago and maybe I was not the only one who had complained.

I have no problem with multi-buy offers on anything that can be stored.

When I’m eating out I prefer smaller portions, hopefully at lower prices, but large portions are welcomed by many people. Apart from wedding cake, I cannot recall being offered a doggy bag.

Member

I don’t subscribe to the idea of “banning” such things as food offers. It says that one group of people have the right to dictate how another group should behave, and to take away their choice to make their own decisions about what and how to buy. We all make mistakes in what we buy, but should learn from them and be responsible for whatever we choose to do. Those who don’t like food offers – don’t buy them. Many others find them advantageous and should not be denied their advantages. The choice lies with the purchaser.

Member

Perhaps the groups are those who care about the environment and minimising waste and those who don’t. 🙁 It is not just waste of food but an enormous amount of water used in agriculture, pesticide and fertiliser use. If the supermarket offers a half price promotion instead of two for the price of one, then we avoid waste and everyone benefits from the price reduction.

From time to time retailers say they will behave responsibly but there has not been much progress. Sainsbury is, I believe, the most recent, albeit for a different reason: mirror.co.uk/money/sainsburys-scraps-multi-buy-deals-7350607

Member

I do not understand how maintaining freedom of choice is conflated with not caring about the environment. Many of us eat more than we need to to sustain health, and meat uses more resources than grains and vegetables, so perhaps we will be banned from eating meat next?

Having choice does not mean being irresponsible. We all have brains and intelligence to make our own decisions. Those who feel strongly either way have the choice to follow their own path without having others’ views imposed on them

I would like to see domestic appliances more durable and repairable but would not insist that cheap appliances are banned and denied those who choose them for their own reasons. 🙂

Member

Elsewhere you have proposed keeping conventional cars out of city centres, so it’s not just me who feels that some control is needed. I have proposed that rather than offering multi-buy offers on fresh food, retailers should reduce the price instead.

I suppose we should get back to doggy bags. I almost always eat what I am given when I eat out. If it’s a large portion I will skip the pudding.

Member

If companies want to promote buying more than one of something they can simply reduce the price of the item. In this day and age the only way to focus the minds of companies who for too long have helped create this food waste problem is with the stick of banning.

Member

I do not object to using a doggy bag if I cannot finish a meal, particularly an expensive one and most restaurants do not object. I do think we should do away with 3 for 2 or BOGOF, as these just encourage spending, but not saving and when it comes to fruit and such like, it usually goes off before it can be eaten, such a waste. I also think we should be prepared to eat misshapen fruits or vegetables if they are not damaged at all, it just costs the farmer such a lot and is very wrong and wasteful. If the world economy goes the way it looks as though it might, we shall all be grateful to eat, never mind the shape!