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Large French supermarkets will be required under a new law to donate any unsold food they have left at the end of the day, instead of throwing it out.

The law, which goes into effect this week, will require supermarkets larger than 4,305 square ft. to sign contracts with charities, the Guardian reports, or face penalties of up to $84,000.

France is the first country to pass a law to tackle food waste. That's something the U.S. could learn a lesson from–here's a snapshot of what we're dealing with in America, from Harvest Public Media's "Food Waste in America" report:

Food waste is the single-largest source of waste in municipal landfills. An incredible 35 million tons of food were thrown away in 2012, according to the EPA. As it decomposes in landfills, the waste releases methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 Americans struggles with hunger and the world wonders how to address the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.


But the situation in France with supermarket food waste specifically was more extreme because some supermarkets were not only throwing out their unsold edible food, but pouring bleach over it to avoid being sued if people dumpster diving for meals were to get sick. French supermarkets will be barred from that practice under the new law. The Atlantic writes:

The United States also has a legal framework in place that encourages food donations. Beyond tax incentives, there is also the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which ensures that donors are not liable for harm done by donated food as long as it was given in good faith.


The campaign in France was set in motion by Arash Darambarsh, a French councillor who began this petition.