The EC released its long-awaited Communication on the Circular Economy on December 2, making it clear such foodstuffs destined for feed use should not be considered as ‘waste’.
‘Plant based substances from the agri-food industry and food of non-animal origin no longer intended for human consumption, which are destined to be used as feed are subject to Regulation (EC) No 767/200915 and are not regarded as waste for the purposes of that Regulation.
Directive 2008/98/EC should therefore not apply to those products and substances when used for feed, and the scope of that Directive needs to be clarified accordingly.’
Legal clarification long sought
EFFPA had long been pressing for legal clarification around the non-waste status of such foodstuffs of vegetable origin.
Reacting to the Commission’s proposal, president of that trade group, Paul Featherstone, said a clear non-waste legal status for former foodstuffs is very much needed, as Europe-wide processors of such produce occasionally find their operations interrupted by environmental control authorities who incorrectly interpret former foodstuffs as a ‘waste’.
A note compiled by the EU Feed Manufacturer's Federation (FEFAC) in 2012 identified some of the consequences of the classification of former foodstuffs as waste, such as the lack of incentives to food business operators to preserve the integrity and traceability of the former foodstuffs and potential feed safety concerns due to the loss of such traceability.
Today, FEFAC welcomed the Commission’s proposal to explicitly exclude feed materials from the scope of the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, to the extent they are already covered by EU feed legislation.
The feed association said the proposal honours a long-standing call from the EU feed industry for more legal certainty, which will facilitate discussions with national authorities on the interpretation of the legal ‘non-waste’ status of certain feed materials.
FEFAC president, Ruud Tijssens, said as a result of the European feed industry's nutritional know-how, co-products of the food and biofuel industry can be used efficiently within feed, thus contributing to the reduction of the environmental footprint of livestock production.
Meanwhile, EFFPA said the Commission’s approach will help with expansion of the former feedstuffs processing sector and will also further reduce food waste throughout Europe, with that trade group noting that a lot of feed-eligible former foodstuffs are still landfilled or at best used as biogas in the EU.
Former foodstuffs of plant origin are materials removed from the retail market by food manufacturers, due to unintentional or unavoidable production errors. Those used in feed include broken biscuits and chocolates, surplus bread, incorrectly flavoured crisps and breakfast cereals, all because of their high energy content in the form of sugars, oils and starch.
Around 3.5 million tons of those former foodstuffs are processed into feed annually. The EU piglet market is said to be a significant user of such feed - the sweet taste helps with weaning – and the cattle sector also benefits. The industry was valued at around €1bn in 2014.
Former foodstuffs containing milk, gelatin, eggs or honey come under the scope of the animal by-products regulation, and those products are explicitly exempted from the scope of the Waste Framework Directive.
Head of the EU Primary Food Processors (PFP) association, Gianfranco Patrucco, also hailed the Commission’s communication:
“Primary food processors are ideally positioned at the cross-roads of food, feed, industrial and energy production to make a positive contribution to the EU circular economy. Besides our main outlets which are food and feed, we have a long tradition of processing renewable raw materials to produce ingredients for pharmaceuticals, detergents, plastics, lubricants, fuels, paint, paper, cosmetics and other industrial products.
However, in order to boost demand and investments in bio-based products in the long run, PFP members need concrete market-creation measures and a stable and predictable regulatory framework."
Reacting to the Commission’s action plan the EU farm lobby, Copa and Cogeca, said shifting towards a circular economy can unlock the potential to enhance sustainable growth and improve competitiveness in the EU agriculture sector.
Secretary-general, Pekka Pesonen, said: “For the agriculture and forestry sectors, circular thinking is about saving energy, nutrients and water and ensuring sustainable biomass production that brings about significant economic and environmental benefits. And we have made huge efforts here. Indeed, agricultural products that cannot be put on the market because they do not comply with certain standards, are used in the processing industry, animal feed, and in other bio-based industries, providing farmers with new outlets for their produce and without endangering the high food safety standards we have in the EU.”