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Frenchman takes fight against supermarket waste to Europe

Arash Derambarsh, 35, has become something of a celebrity since inspiring a law to ban supermarkets from junking leftover food.
Arash Derambarsh, 35, has become something of a celebrity since inspiring a law to ban supermarkets from junking leftover food. Joël Saget, AFP

A local councillor whose zealous campaign led to a new French law that will force supermarkets to donate leftover food to charity is now preparing a bid to take the legislation Europe-wide.

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Arash Derambarsh, a councillor in the town of Courbevoie just outside Paris, launched a petition in January demanding a law to end the dumping and deliberate destruction of supermarkets' unsold produce.

The petition got some 211,000 signatures and caught the government's eye, spurring lawmakers to pass the landmark legislation in May.

His exploit has been reported by media across the world, and on Thursday he will be honoured by President François Hollande at the Élysée Palace.

“We’re the first country in the world to force supermarkets to redistribute leftover food. It’s an amazing achievement – and it has to continue,” Derambarsh told FRANCE 24.

Growing hunger

Derambarsh’s parents fled the Iranian revolution to France, where he was born 35 years ago.

He says his bid to end supermarket waste was driven by anger at the memory of going hungry as a poor student.

The local councillor approached supermarket chains in Courbevoie to see if he could pick up unwanted food and give it to the poor, but they refused.

He finally got the green light from one supermarket and the success of his idea pushed him to launch a petition.

“Each supermarket wastes more than 40kg of food a day. And yet people are struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “We needed this law.”

Africa next?

The legislation bans stores from deliberately poisoning products with bleach to stop them from being retrieved by people foraging through bins.

Those supermarkets bigger than 400 square metres (4,300 square feet) will be forced to sign contracts with charities by July 2016 to take their unwanted food, or face fines of up to 75,000 euros ($82,000).

Food not fit for consumption will have to be used for animal feed or compost.

Derambarsh doesn’t plan on stopping there. He will be launching another petition throughout Europe next week.

“And after that, why not Africa?” he asked. “With my plan, hunger could be cut by a third across the world.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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