FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Turkey wages an all-out campaign against bread waste

Bread can be found on nearly every kitchen table in Turkey, where bakers produce 37 billion loaves annually. But this year, Turks will be happy to find significantly less bread in a place where it doesn’t belong: in waste bins.

Thanks to a robust, national public information campaign, daily bread waste in Turkey dropped by an impressive 18 percent and saved a total of 384 million loaves of bread.

Before the year-long campaign began in early 2013, Turkey wasted 5.9 percent of all bread production, amounting to 6 million loaves of bread every day. According to the Turkish Grain Board, which directed the campaign, the leading cause of waste is neglect and lack of awareness—people frequently buy too much bread and bakers over-produce. In shops and homes across the country, bread is often improperly stored and stale bread is either thrown away or fed to livestock.

But now, things are changing.

“As a result of increased public awareness on waste, people have started consuming bread more carefully,” said Kayhan Unal, Deputy Director General of the Turkish Grain Board, which falls under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.

With the broad support of the government and civil society, the Grain Board launched a campaign that blanketed 12 major cities. It targeted households and bakeries as well as cafeterias, restaurants and hotels.

In many ways, Turkey’s drive against bread waste bears the hallmarks of traditional information campaigns. The Grain Board’s campaign and media department organized conferences and exhibitions, orchestrated marches and aired public service announcements on television, radio, billboards and online.

But the campaign also used creative strategies to connect with ordinary people on this important issue. To complement discussions about food and bread waste in the school curriculum and in mosques, the Grain Board organized art and poetry competitions engaging as many as 25 million children. It printed the campaign logo on national lottery tickets and even published a recipe book that celebrates stale bread as one of the most useful ingredients in the pantry.

Even though the campaign’s recommendations were not legally enforced, the Turkish public responded and changed its consumption habits on an entirely voluntary basis. The Grain Board expects levels of bread waste to drop even further over time as new behaviours become the cultural norm. Of all the target groups, households reacted especially well to the campaign, reducing bread waste by an average of 40 percent.

As Turkey wastes less bread, it also saves more money. According to the Grain Board, reducing unnecessary waste and excess purchases saved consumers an estimated US$ 1.2 billion in 2013.

To expand on early successes, the Grain Board recently partnered with the Turkish postal service to release one hundred thousand commemorative stamps introducing the campaign and its message to a wider national audience. Further demonstrating that the country is serious about the issue, the Government of Turkey is including food waste prevention a priority in its national development plan through 2018.

With one-third of global food production currently wasted or lost, the international community is homing in on Turkey’s success. The Grain Board has shared its campaign model as a best practice, exchanging experiences with the United Kingdom’s Waste and Resources Action Programme and with governments across Europe and Central Asia at last year’s FAO Regional Conference for Europe.

“By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources, minimize environmental impact and, most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat,” said Yuriko Shoji, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Central Asia. “Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed the 805 million hungry people in the world.”

2 February 2015, Ankara, Turkey