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Swadlincote chosen as Sainsbury’s food waste trial town

South Derbyshire District Council Chief Executive Frank McArdle, SDDC Environmental Development Manager Kate Allies, SDDC Business and Recycling Manager Gillian Coates and Sainsbury’s Swadlincote store manager Ian Partridge
The South Derbyshire town of Swadlincote has been picked by Sainsbury’s to trial food waste initiatives as part of the retailer’s £10 million ‘Waste Less, Save More’ project.

The initiative was launched by the supermarket in September and saw 189 towns and cities submit over 1,000 ideas for preventing waste in an attempt to win a £1 million investment from Sainsbury’s. Prospective projects arising from applications included technological innovations such as talking bins and more ecological suggestions such as community orchards and growing mushrooms from used coffee waste.

A judging panel made up of representatives from Sainsbury’s, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and environmental campaign charity Hubbub whittled this number down to a shortlist of five before Swadlincote was chosen as the winner.

The market town will now spend the next year testing ideas and technology that aim to reduce food waste in the town by 50 per cent.

Some of the projects suggested to enhance waste reduction in Swadlincote include introducing ‘artificial noses’, which are able to detect when food is still edible, a competition to find the most food-efficient residents, and a bid to find soup recipes made from the most commonly wasted food.

Findings from these initiatives will then be used as a ‘blueprint’ to be implemented in other towns across the UK in a future investment of £10 million over the next five years.

Sainsbury’s, using WRAP figures, estimates that by achieving the 50 per cent reduction goal, residents could cut their annual food waste bill from an average of £700 to £350, saving Swadlincote families a total of £1,168,650 a year. If lessons learnt from the trial were adopted across the country, this could translate to an annual collection of £9.3 billion a year.

‘Overwhelming response and enthusiasm’

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe, announcing Swadlincote’s selection at the annual Sainsbury’s corporate responsibility update in London today (1 December), stated: “When we set out in search of a town in September we never thought we’d get the overwhelming response and enthusiasm that we’ve seen from Swadlincote and hundreds of other applications. Food waste is one of society’s biggest environmental issues at the moment and there is a genuine passion across the UK to tackle it.

“We know that above all our customers care about reducing waste while saving money, which is why we’ve pledged a £10 million to invest in reducing store and household waste across the UK over the next five years. 

"We know this is a bold initiative, and with the help of the residents of Swadlincote, we look forward to getting started in January.”

South Derbyshire District Council Business and Recycling manager Gillian Coates, who helped to head up Swadlincote's bid, said: "There are some excellent projects and passionate people in this area – we knew we had a good bid but we were obviously delighted that our 'can-do' attitude shone through to the judges.We have a whole host of vibrant community and enthusiastic organisations keen to start delivering Waste Less, Save More projects. It's such a brilliant opportunity for the area and, as well as the end benefit of reducing waste, it's going to be a lot of fun for the community."

UK retailers and food waste

The attitudes of supermarkets to food waste has been in the spotlight of late, with politicians and television chefs promoting the issue.

In September, MP Kerry McCarthy, who has since been named as Shadow Environment Secretary, succeeded in getting her proposed Food Waste (Reduction) Bill a second reading in Parliament.

Should the bill be voted through into law, supermarkets would be obliged to donate unsold foods to local charities, as well as publishing food waste arisings across their supply chains and committing to reduce food waste by 30 per cent by 2025.

A two-part BBC series hosted by television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which aired in November, then highlighted the amount of waste caused by supermarkets’ cosmetic standards, which lead to large proportions of agricultural yields being lost.

The programme has launched the #WASTENOT appeal, which asks supermarkets to ‘take responsibility for the waste that they cause in the supply chain’ and to ‘relax their cosmetic standards for produce and to stop changing orders at the last moment’, as well as making ‘strenuous and visible efforts to redistribute all their surplus good food to those who are in need, instead of sending it to anaerobic digestion’.

Find out more about the Sainsbury’s ‘Waste Less, Save More’ initiative.

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