By Brian Collett - Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket group, has become the latest retailer to offer leftover food from its stores to charity. Its aim is that by the end of next year, no food in its shops will be ditched.
Last year, by contrast, 55,400 tonnes of food were junked at Tesco’s British stores and distribution centres. The company calculates that 30,000 tonnes of this could have provided 70 million meals.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said: “We believe no food that could be eaten should be wasted. That’s why we have committed that no surplus food should go to waste from our stores.”
For six months the company has produced 22 tonnes of food from a scheme in 14 stores, enough for 50,000 meals. The Community Food Connection programme, delivered in partnership with FareShare FoodCloud, will be expanded to all Tesco’s large stores by the end of this year and to every store by the end of 2017.
Tesco has followed the example of several of its large rivals.
Marks & Spencer has established links with charities so that it can send them its surplus food. It intends to involve all its stores by this spring and to reduce its food waste by 20% within four years – an objective called Plan A.
The company has formed a partnership with the national giving platform Neighbourly, on whose website other charities can register to receive food.
Louise Nicholls, the company’s head of responsible sourcing, packaging and Plan A, said: “Our key priority is to reduce food waste while ensuring that, where there is food surplus, we put it to the best possible use.
“This is the first nationwide redistribution scheme to provide an innovative, practical solution to surplus food redistribution by building local connections, enabling all our stores to link with local food projects and help support their communities.”
Waitrose, part of the John Lewis store group, wants all its shops and depots to arrange with local organisations to take food before it passes its use-by date. “We aim to donate as much food as possible to local charities and good causes,” says Waitrose.
At present, unsold food not donated goes to create electricity through anaerobic digestion.
Britain’s second biggest supermarket company Asda, owned by the US Walmart group, has introduced a budget-price “wonky veg box” containing imperfectly shaped vegetables, which are often thrown away.
Every box contains a leaflet about food waste encouraging responsible conduct and pointing out that of the 15 million tons of food that Britain discards every year more than half is binned in the home.
Sainsbury’s contribution is a system through which unsold waste bread is fed to livestock.
One benefit for companies that distribute surplus food is that they avoid landfill and disposal costs of about £80 ($113, €102) a tonne.