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Sainsbury’s drops food waste reduction campaign

Reports say Sainsbury’s has dropped its ‘Waste Less, Save More’ food waste reduction initiative after its trial in the town of Swadlincote produced poor results, with the supermarket giant claiming its ‘customers’ priorities had changed’.

Food waste poses a salient problem in the UK, with around seven million tonnes of food wasted each year, while households throw away food worth a staggering £13 billion, and the hospitality and food service sector wastes food worth £3 billion, according to figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The £10-million initiative was launched in 2015 and was to last five years with the aim of getting consumers to reduce food waste through a variety of behaviour change initiatives, including teaching shoppers the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates and the release of £1 million in funding to 29 ‘Discovery Communities’ across the UK.

Sainsbury’s drops food waste reduction campaign
Sainsbury's decision to drop it's £10-million initiative will come as a blow to food waste campaigners.

A 12-month trial was launched in the town of Swadlincote, Derbyshire, at the start of 2016; however, since the results of an evaluation carried out by project partner Hubbub, an environmental behaviour change charity, revealed that residents only reduced food waste by nine per cent, some way short of the ‘Waste Less, Save More’ reduction target of 50 per cent, the Guardian has reported that Sainsbury’s will now be dropping the initiative and integrating it into a wider wellbeing programme.

It was revealed in July last year that a third of households involved felt their awareness of food waste had risen over the course of the trial, and food sharing initiatives such as Community Fridges and use of the Olio app saw residents share the equivalent of 10,000 food items, while schools in the area saved an average of 21 kilogrammes of food per week, equating to a saving of £2,000 per school per year – but these achievements were not deemed sufficient progress by Sainsbury’s.

The Guardian reports that Sainsbury’s will continue to run its surplus food redistribution projects across the UK, while food no longer fit for human consumption will be turned into animal feed or sent for anaerobic digestion to produce energy. The supermarket also remains a signatory of the Courtauld Commitment 2025, a voluntary agreement on the part of businesses to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain.

Commenting on the decision, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We found our customers’ priorities have changed and broadened, which is why reducing food waste now forms one part of what is an even bigger investment to help our customers ‘live well’ in every aspect of their lives.”

Environmental behaviour change charity Hubbub partnered with Sainbury's to study the social effects of the campaign and examine the success of different approaches to reducing food waste. While the charity was unable to comment on the reasons behind the end of the initiative, it has released a statement saying: "The successful elements of the Swadlincote experiment have been expanded to over 30 new communities who have received investment from Sainsbury’s of just under £1 million. Hubbub is working with these communities to assess the impact of their activities and the full results will be available in August.

"Waste Less, Save More has demonstrated once again that household food waste is a complex and entrenched issue with multiple causes. There will be no single magic bullet to resolve this, but every 1% saving nationwide represents £130m of food saved. Hubbub will be using the lessons gathered from Waste less, Save more to inform our ongoing work to drive behaviour change and reduce waste."

A spokesperson for the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which monitored the Waste Less, Save More initiative, added: “WRAP was contracted to provide an independent evaluation of the impact of the retailer’s Swadlincote project. This showed Swadlincote to be an aspirational undertaking and a significant investment by Sainsbury’s. We are pleased that Sainsbury’s is going to continue to help consumers take action to reduce the amount of food thrown away as part of a wider ambition to help customers live well in every aspect of their lives, and that they remain a committed signatory to the Courtauld Commitment 2025 and its public engagement work.”

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