Politicians to weigh up their own food waste

Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP is one of five British politicians who have agreed to test the Winnow smart food waste meter, after trials suggested it could cut food waste in households by up to two-thirds and save families hundreds of pounds.

Each year, UK households bin around seven million tonnes of food waste, of which 4.2 million tonnes is thought to be avoidable. In financial terms, the average family will spend £700 a year on food that goes uneaten, meaning there are big savings to be made.

The Winnow app aims to help families weigh and calculate the value of their food waste
Creagh, the former Shadow Environment Secretary who has this year led inquiries into the effect of microplastics on the marine environment, the Treasury’s approach to sustainability and the ramifications of Brexit on the environment, will be joined by four other volunteers from UK parliaments as they seek to cut down waste in their own homes.

Steven Agnew MLA, Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland; Mark Pawsey, Conservative MP for Rugby; Margaret Ferrier, the Scottish National Party’s MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West; and Maurice Golden, Conservative MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, are the other politicians taking part in the four-week trial.

The trial is all part of the Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more campaign, which this year has been investigating ways in which to address levels of household food waste with a range of initiatives in the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote

Among initiatives tested by the town’s trial families was the use of the Winnow app, which allows users to track and weigh the food items that they are throwing away, as well as the reasons for doing so (for example, whether they are expired, over-portioned or burned during preparation).

The app then produces a report summarising the total financial cost of the waste over a given period and suggests how it could be cut down.


Prior to the Swadlincote trials, the technology had only been used in commercial kitchens, including that in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen in Winchester. After a two-month trial, the restaurant claimed to have cut the value of its food waste by a third.   

The app has now been adapted for domestic use, after research by the supermarket found that over 80 per cent of UK families believe they waste little or no food, and both Sainsbury’s and Winnow expect that by ‘gamifying’ the process and highlighting the value of food waste it could have a big impact on homes that use it.

Indeed, the supermarket says that food waste dropped by an average of 68 per cent across the six Swadlincote households that tested the app over the course of a month, which would save the families an average of £268 a year.

Now, after ‘great results’ in Swadlincote, Sainsbury’s says it is looking to spread the innovation further across the country. It has already announced that it will be providing funding for towns and cities across the UK to replicate the work in the town with a range of free or low-investment solutions, and says it hopes that support from the politicians will be ‘instrumental’ in driving the roll-out and helping highlight the scale of the issue.

Politicians to weigh up their own food waste
Households in Swadlincote have been testing initiatives and taking advice from celebrity chefs to cut down their food waste
The trial will run for four weeks, and findings are due to be announced in the New Year.

A ‘nation in denial’ about our household food waste

Speaking of the trial Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Energy & Engineering for Sainsbury’s, said: “Our kitchens have long played a home for innovative tech, but it’s no longer confined to our smoothie makers and coffee machines. Winnow’s brilliant because it not only highlights the cost associated with food waste, but challenges you to beat your own records.

“When it comes to food waste, we’re a nation in denial, frequently underestimating what we throw away. Thankfully this trial can really hammer home the amount of food going in the bin, which is the first step to making a change.

“To have such high-profile names on board is testament not only to the importance of the issue, but also their commitment to reduce food waste. We’re all excited to see the results!”

Creagh said: “It’s scandalous that almost half of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes, costing families on average £60 a month through wasted food. That’s why I’m looking forward to taking part in this trial, to see how we can identify food waste in the home.”

Fellow Participant Agnew added: “The issue of food waste is rising in prominence as people realise the scale of the issue and the potential savings. I’m excited to be working with Sainsbury’s on this trial – as one of the guinea pigs for this technology, I’ll be really interested to see the results and whether it’s something that can be rolled out more widely in the fight against food waste.”

In the summer, Resource visited Swadlincote to see how the food waste trials were going and what impact it could have on British households.

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