France has officially become the first nation in the world to ban supermarkets from wasting food thanks to a new law. Previously, some French grocery stores would keep unsold food in secure trash bins — a practice that’s also common for some U.S. grocery stores — in order to prevent those in need of food from taking what was discarded. However, things are now looking up with France’s mandate that all grocery stores over 4,304 square feet must hold a contract with a food bank or charity. And this move isn’t just good for people — it’s good for the planet.

It is estimated that one-third of food goes to waste worldwide. In the United States alone, we throw away about 60 million metric tons of food annually, and 32 million tons of that food waste ends up in landfills. We might not think much of this statistic because food naturally decomposes – unlike plastic, for example – but when organic matter breaks down, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a five-year period of time.


Given the amount of waste we generate, the United States could really stand to take a page or two from France. Can you imagine how much food we could redirect to hungry people if at least a portion of that 60 million metric tons of food were reclaimed? The good news is the U.S. does have plans to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030 – but there are also many things we can do as individuals to cut food waste at its source right now.

From planning your weekly shopping trips in advance to making over your leftovers, there are many ways we can help. In addition, you can get involved with food redirection programs in your area. There federal laws like the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that encourage grocery stores to donate to local food pantries and some grocery stores work with volunteer-driven organizations to distribute food to those in need.

For more tips on what you can do to reduce food waste, check out these 6 Ways You Can Make a Difference Right Now.

Lead image source: Masahiro Ihara/Flickr