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Spotlight on France

No, doggy bags are not compulsory in France, but restaurants forced to reduce food waste

Audio 10:00
Alison Hird

 A new law that came into force on January 1st means large restaurants in France, serving around 180 covers a day, must now separate out organic and non-organic waste, as part of a government drive to reduce food waste by half by 2025. Contary to media reports, they don't have to provide customers with doggy bags, but their use is encouraged. During the Cop21 climate conference, a doggy bag scheme was run with success, but can this very un-French custom take root here?

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The French restaurant industry generates one million tonnes of food waste every year.

So the idea of people taking their leftovers home in what Anglo-saxons call a doggy bag is a seductive one. 

Except that shoving gourmet food in a paper bag has gone down like a lead balloon in France, world capital of gastronomy.

The Lyon-based start-up Takeaway has come up with a "designer doggy bag" worthy of gourmet French cuisine, and is helping change mentalities.

But most food waste is not what diners leave on their plates; it's thrown away in the kitchens.

And "the more gastronomic the restaurant, the more food is binned" says François Pasteau, who's been running a food revolution at his L'Epi Dupain restaurant in Paris for the last two decades. 

He's trained his staff to think what can be done with every ingredient before throwing it away. Fennel tops are used to make sorbet, fish skins turned into crisps.

As a result whereas one third of food is thrown away in your average restaurant, Pasteau's bins are rarely full.

That's good news for the environment, and for business since it reduces the costs involved in the new legal obligations to recycle organic waste. 

According to the Synhorcat union which represents some 13,000 restaurants and caterers in France, the recycling bill for restaurants serving around 180 covers a day will be between 2,500 and 3,000 euros a year. They're calling for some tax incentives to encourage them to go in the right direction. Then again, with a little help, they could  follow Pasteau's lead.

 

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