The fight against food waste becomes cool with the ‘doggy bag’, presented by the PDL to make it mandatory

Until not long ago, asking the waiter to put the leftovers from restaurant lunch in a bag to take home meant making yourself look like a ‘poor guy’ or a cheapskate, certainly someone who ‘doesn’t know how to live’. But things change, starting with the names: now, asking to have thedoggy bag‘It’s cool, fashionable, so much so that for many VIPs it has become a (more or less superficial) habit. At the base, there is a new sensitivity for the environment and the awareness of wanting to avoid waste, daughters of an era that has left hedonism and unbridledness behind and which aims to be sustainable and attentive, in a word ethical.

It is no coincidence that the fight against food waste is one of the objectives set in the UN Agenda 2030, which plans to halve it by 2030.

Food waste is an environmental and social problem

This is a significant challenge, because this type of waste has a heavy impact from various points of view, primarily environmental but also social and economic. Some data: food waste produces 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and squanders huge water, energy and land resources. It is estimated that, if it were a state, it would be the third largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world after the USA and China. Not to mention the emissions produced by the disintegration of food waste thrown into landfill and deforestation due to the creation of new fields to produce food that will never be eaten.

According to the FAO, every year approximately one third of the entire world agricultural production intended for human consumption is wasted. A problem and a ‘luxury’ that mainly concerns rich countries, because developing ones certainly cannot afford to waste: again according to the FAO, on average a Westerner ‘throws away’ 95–115 kg of food per year , while in sub-Saharan Africa the percentage remains around 6–11 kg per year.

Obviously the problem is not just restaurant leftovers, which is instead complex and concerns the entire supply chain, from the agricultural production process to the processing up to the sale and conservation of the food.

It is no coincidence that Europe has adopted the ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’, a ‘from farm to fork’ program precisely to achieve consumption in a more sustainable way and reduce waste to 360 degrees.

Even though I’m not the only actor in the game, However, consumers have a big role and therefore also a wide margin for action. One way goes right through the doggy bag, very widespread in the United States and compulsory in France and Spain. Recycling restaurant leftovers is now a necessity and a trend, but is it the same in Italy too?

Wasteful Italy

Let’s start from a fact which unfortunately, as often happens, does us no credit: according to data from the Bdfn Foundation, every Italian wastes 65 kg of food per year, due to incorrect or simply superficial behavior, at home and in restaurants. The country therefore has a great need to combat the phenomenon.

And it is precisely in this context that the law proposal entitled ‘Mandatory doggy bag’ presented today in Parliament by Giandiego Gatta, deputy of Forza Italia and national head of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the blue party, with the president of Forza Italia deputies Paolo Barelli together with the Circles for the environment and rural culture.

The PDL aims, explains Gatta, “to contribute to combating food waste. Introducing the doggy bag in Italy too would not only be an act of common sense that would help combat food waste but would also have a social purpose.”

What do Italians think?

If the doggy bag is widespread abroad and no one sees anything strange in asking for it, in Italy this is not yet the case. For Coldiretti “there remains a lot of resistance even if in the face of this new need the catering sector is equipping itself and in a growing number of establishments, to avoid embarrassment, the customer is asked confidentially if they wish to take home the food or even the bottles of wine not finished and ad hoc packages or trays are made available”.

In fact, for restaurateurs ”the doggy bag is already a reality”, as underlined by the president of Fiepeti (association of public establishments Confesercenti) Giancarlo Banchieri, commenting on the announced bill: ”I don’t think there are restaurateurs who deny the possibility of take home any leftovers. The truth, however, is that few customers ask to do this: imposing fines on a restaurateur who has run out of aluminum trays will not change the situation.”

Reducing waste is in everyone’s interest: the environment, consumers and even restaurateurs. To achieve this objective, however, we need to work on promoting anti-waste behaviors and strategies. A commitment that we willingly take on: we will propose to our members to display signs in their restaurants inviting customers to ask for the doggy bag. But the responsibilities need to be definitively clarified: once they leave the restaurant, it is up to the customers to properly store the food”, concludes Banchieri.

If embarrassment and resistance remain, there is still reason to be optimistic that something is changing here too: according to a Coldiretti/Censis analysis released precisely in reference to the announced parliamentary proposal, almost one in two Italians (49%) is ready to ask for the doggy bag at the restaurant, percentage that rises to 58% among young people, the most inclined towards green issues and the least interested in the old ‘label’. In short, Italians are understanding that asking for a ‘little lunch’ and reusing at home what was not eaten in a restaurant is not a vulgar or poor man’s gesture but rather a sign of attention and respect for the environment and for others: after all , if celebs like Rihanna and Michelle Obama do it, it can only be a cool habit.