How Milan is winning the fight against food waste

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Friday, 17 March 2023

Authored by: Milan Food Policy

In a mere 9-year period, the city of Milan has transformed the way its residents manage and separate its waste.

It was part of a thorough and well-executed plan by the city to analyse its food system and observe the main drivers shaping the food system.

Through a study of their urban food cycle in 2014, the city developed a game-changing urban food policy in consultation with about 700 stakeholders.

The Milan Food Policy

The Milan Food Policy identifies five main areas of intervention around five key priorities:

1. Ensure healthy food and water for all citizens
2. Promote the sustainability of the food system
3. Promote food education
4. Fight against food waste
5. Support scientific research in agri-food sector

The Fight Against Food Waste

Under the priority to ‘Fight against food waste’, the city set itself the goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 with the help of local players.

Research found that over 40% of food surplus is the result of the purchasing and consumption habits of households and the average value of domestic food waste for each family is approximately EUR 450 per year.

To reach its goals, the city created plans to:

1. Inform and educate citizens and local players to reduce food losses and waste
2. Recover and redistribute food losses to create relations among the local players such as charities and food banks
3. Build partnerships that stimulate changes in the way food is packaged and encourage consumers to disregard aesthetic standards as a criterion for selecting vegetables.
4. Apply the principles of circular good system management, such as in the re-use of organic waste to produce compost for local use

More specifically, the city implemented the following actions:

1. A holistic action among big public food drivers, such as the Municipal Agency for School Canteens, in order to demonstrate that acting in the field of food policy enables set goals to be reached
2. A local model to collect food losses in the neighborhoods which will involve small, local players to develop local Food Waste Hubs
3. A social action by other institutional drivers, for example open street markets with high work capacity and small quantities of food losses, and direct involvement of the end beneficiaries
4. A study on how to scale-up all the experiences

Results and Lessons Learned

The City of Milan has managed to involve nearly all of its 1.4 million inhabitants in collecting food waste which is then used for production of biogas and compost. Milan collects 95 kilograms of food waste per inhabitant with an overall 62% waste collection rate, resulting in approximately 9,000 tonnes of CO2 saved per year.[1]

Some recommendations from the city following the implementation of the Milan Food Policy includes:

1. Cities need to analyse their food system in order to tackle food losses. It is important to have local data and to observe the main drivers shaping the food system of the city to make the correct decisions
2. Municipalities can act on the food system by facilitating the relations between the players involved, and playing the role of community leader and not just of administrative power
3.Cities must implement umbrella actions (creation of platforms, networks, etc.) able to create the favorable context for the creation of initiatives involving social and economic players
4. City networks play an important role in exchanging information and inspiring activities at different levels. It is equally fundamental to have municipal officers dedicated to food matters who can involve players and facilitate common initiatives among departments, municipal agencies, research centers, food banks, social players and major food businesses.

The growing importance of cities in the fight against food waste is undeniable: municipalities are the key players in order to achieve a 50% waste reduction by 2030.

Read more in our case study: Rethinking Milan’s approach to food waste

Amid rising food demand and prices, cities must take urgent action to reduce and repurpose food waste to provide food security for their residents while simultaneously achieving economic opportunities and emission reduction. The Urban Eats campaign is mobilizing cities towards a more circular and resilient food system by: 1) creating value out of food waste, 2) redistributing excess food, 3) producing more locally, 4) promoting food habit change among city residents and businesses, and 5) strengthening collaboration across the whole food value chain. Through the sharing of city stories such as Milan’s initiative to create value out of food waste, we hope to help you consider simple yet diverse ways to manage food waste in your city. Want to inspire other cities with your story? Get in touch with


[1] Source: Zero Waste Cities

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