Why Milan is a global leader in Sustainable Food Policy

(Source: wantedinmilan.com)

Last night, the first ever Earthshot Prize Awards ceremony took place in North London’s Alexandra Palace. The Earthshot Prize is a prestigious global environmental prize supported by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge through their charity ‘The Royal Foundation’. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s ‘Moonshot’, which united a community of people to put a man on the moon, the Earthshot Prize is based on five ‘earthshots’:

1. Protect and Restore Nature

2. Clean our Air

3. Revive our Oceans

4. Build a Waste-Free World

5. Fix Our Climate

The Earthshot Prize Council includes a range of global leaders from different sectors, including Founder of Alibaba Jack Ma, Actress Cate Blanchett and Queen Rania of Jordan. Attendees of yesterday’s star-studded event included The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Egyptian football player Mohamed Salah. Sir David Attenborough made the opening remark, reminding the world that “We don’t have eternity, we need to do this now.”

(Source: BBC)

The City of Milan became the first city to win the Earthshot Prize under the ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ category, as a result of their successful Food Waste Hubs.

Milan’s Food Waste Hubs

The City of Milan launched its Food Waste Hubs in 2019, with an aim to halve food waste by 2030. The city introduced policies designed to incentivise individuals and businesses to reduce food waste. This includes a tax reduction for private sector players such as supermarkets, restaurants and bars who donate their surplus food to the cities’ Food Waste Hubs. The surplus food is sent to the hubs, where it can be collected by NGOs and redistributed to those in need.

(Source: Earthshot Prize)

As of now, the city has three Food Waste Hubs, each recovering about 130 tonnes of food per year or 350 kg daily, which is equal to an estimated 260,000 meals.[1]

Other initiatives to supporting Milan’s sustainable food policy

In addition to creating Food Waste Hubs, the city has implemented holistic public initiatives that aim to promote awareness of sustainable diets and the reduction of food waste.

Raising Awareness in Schools

Working with a municipal food agency in charge of catering school food in Milan, the city ran a campaign across 85 schools encouraging students to reduce food waste by bringing surplus food back home. The students were provided with reusable bags and aluminium water bottles to reduce wastage from packaging. The campaign resulted in a 17% reduction of food waste.

Regeneration of soils and waste separation guidance

Surplus food from households, commercial properties and schools in Milan is collected by municipal food trucks, which transport the waste to an anaerobic digestion and composting plant. The organic waste is then processed into into biogas, which can be used to fuel the local gas network, as well as compost, which is used to fertilise peri-urban farmland.

The city has also complemented waste collection with educational campaigns teaching citizens how to separate inorganic and organic materials. The success of the campaign is reflected in the high source separation rate of nearly 56% by 2018.

Reducing emissions by sourcing from local farms

The Distretto Agricolo Milanese (DAM) Consortium works with over 30 farms surrounding Milan to procure food that is used within the city. For example, rice catered in the city’s schools are sourced entirely from DAM farms, significantly reducing emissions by shortening supply chains and minimising transportation.

The Origins of Milan’s Sustainable Food Policy

(Source: FAO.org)

The City of Milan signed an official Memorandum of Understanding with the Cariplo Foundation in 2014, committing to launch a food policy that makes their food system more sustainable, resilient and equal. Concrete steps to implement the policy were taken immediate by the Vice Mayor, who set up an office to implement food policy initiatives and announced the launch of Milan’s Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) during Milan’s EXPO in 2015.

Signed by over 200 cities totalling 350 million inhabitants, the non-binding pact was initiated by the city of Milan to unite cities around the world in tackling food waste and food-related issues. MUFPP is a ‘concrete working tool’ that lists 37 recommendations under six categories[2]; indicators complementing each recommendation offer a benchmark to help measure progress the city’s progress.

(The full MUFPP Document can be found here.)

The team behind Milan’s Food Policy is now working on the CircE Project (European Regions toward Circular Economy), an initiative involving eight partner regions in the European Union, who are collaborating to develop policies to advance a circular economy.

Milan’s leading sustainable food policy offers much insight into what a well- thought out, circular food policy can look like. The collaboration of both private and public sectors, as well as an implementing body and clear indicators of progress and success are all instrumental to a transformative food policy. Although Milan’s Food Policy also faces implementation challenges, it is still a stellar example of a holistic food policy, one that takes us one step closer to building a waste free-world.

[1] https://earthshotprize.org/london-2021/the-earthshot-prize-winners-finalists/waste-free/#city-of-milan

[2](1) Governance (2) Sustainable Diets & Nutrition (3)Social & Economic Equity (4) Food Production (5) Food Supply & Distribution (5) Food Waste

Key Sources

  1. Ellen Macarthur Foundation, Collaborating to Change Local Food Systems, <https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-examples/collaborating-to-change-local-food-systems>
  2. Urban Sustainability Exchange, The Milan Food Policy, <https://use.metropolis.org/case-studies/the-milan-food-policy>

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Telling stories about climate change and sustainable development through the lens of food (@claudia1ee)

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Claudia Lee

Claudia Lee

Telling stories about climate change and sustainable development through the lens of food (@claudia1ee)

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