People in Bosnia and Herzegovina throw away a huge amount of food each day and the authorities currently have no strategy to limit the wastage.
Food wastage in Bosnia and Herzegovina is common despite the country being one of the poorest in the region, with around 600,000 people living below the poverty line, earning under 120 euros a month.
“Organic waste and food unfortunately make up even 60 to 70 per cent of the waste we collect every day in Tuzla,” Ekrem Durakovic, an employee of the state company Komunalac, which clears up the city’s rubbish, told BIRN.
Unsold fruit and vegetables are usually thrown away by the several big supermarkets in the town, Durakovic added.
Organic waste represents some 50 per cent of the total garbage produced in the country, Banja Luka-based newspaper Nezavisne Novine reported on Monday, quoting data provided by rubbish dumps in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Banja Luka itself.
Emir Zukic, the director of the Moscanica dump in the city of Zenica, told BIRN that he was seeing a lower percentage of organic waste, but uneaten food was often found.
“Here the percentage of organic waste is no more than 40 per cent of the total … still, we’re used to finding a lot of food in it, for us it’s just normal,” Zukic said.
In several of the biggest Bosnian cities, like Tuzla or the capital Sarajevo, food and organic waste are picked up by regular rubbish trucks as separate collectors and recycling are still uncommon in the country.
“In our canton there is no particular treatment for this kind of waste,” Zijada Krvavac from the Sarajevo canton’s environment ministry told BIRN.
“Most of it is just stored at the city dump, while part of it is given away to feed cattle at local farms, and part of it – especially organic waste coming from parks – is used for compost,” Krvavac said.
In recent months, several European countries including neighbouring Croatia have adopted laws aiming at reducing food waste, especially by supermarkets.
In February, the French parliament adopted a law forcing supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities and food banks before it becomes inedible.
In December 2015, Croatia decided to remove VAT from donations of food which would be otherwise be thrown away after its sell-by date.
However, such measures could prove to be inappropriate for Bosnia, the Inspectorate of Republika Srpska told local media.
“In order to reduce the quantity of food that is thrown away, we don’t need to change the law, the aim of which is to protect the health of the consumers, but we’d rather work on increasing awareness among consumers not to waste food, to buy it rationally,” Nezavisne Novine quoting an Inspectorate spokesperson as saying.
Zilha Seta, better known as ‘Aunt’ Zilha, who has been managing one of the biggest soup kitchens in Sarajevo for many years, agreed that education was necessary in order to avoid food waste.
“Even if the authorities adopted some law to address this problem, it’s more important to teach people not to throw away their food,” she told BIRN.
“Every time I see all that bread that people throw in the garbage cans… it just hurts me so much,” she said.