Tesco to redistribute surplus food
Supermarket retailer Tesco has launched a new pilot scheme that could see 30,000 tonnes of surplus edible food redistributed to local charities, instead of being sent to landfill.
The scheme, run in partnership with UK food redistribution charity FareShare and Irish social enterprise FoodCloud, will see store managers in 10 selected UK Tesco branches use a FareShare FoodCloud application (app) to alert charities to the amount of surplus food they have at the end of each day.
Local charities can then confirm that they want the food, pick it up free-of-charge and provide it to their beneficiaries, such as homeless hostels and breakfast clubs for disadvantaged children.
It is hoped that the scheme, which is already in place at Tesco stores across Ireland, will not only provide food to ‘people in need’ but also reduce the 55,400 tonnes of food the supermarket throws away each year, of which 30,000 tonnes is thought to be edible.
According to the supermarket, the majority of edible food thrown away includes baked goods, fresh produce and pre-packaged sandwiches.
Tesco has reassured charities already receiving food directly from stores that they will not be affected by the new scheme.
‘Potentially the biggest single step’ in cutting down supermarket food waste
Commenting on the pilot scheme’s launch, Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO, said: “No one wants to throw away food which could otherwise be eaten.
“We don’t throw away much food in our own operations but even the one per cent we do throw away amounts to 55,400 tonnes. This is potentially the biggest single step we’ve taken to cut food waste, and we hope it marks the start of eliminating the need to throw away edible food in our stores.”
Lindsay Boswell, FareShare CEO, added: “We understand that customers get angry when they see food being wasted in their local store. We do too and that is why we have spent 20 years developing our successful charity redistribution model.
“Our partnership with Tesco means we are already able to access surplus food from their supply chain, distribution centres and dotcoms.”
Iseult Ward, FoodCloud Co-founder, said that the platform has “already been successful in connecting food outlets with charities in Ireland”, benefitting over 300 charities.
Ward continued: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with both FareShare and Tesco so that we can bring our solution in to the UK to ensure that more charities can benefit. We are looking forward to the developments that will come about as a result of this trial.”
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has welcomed the scheme today, with Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP, stating: “Having a system that allows charities to identify what surplus food is available in their local area is a great way to ensure food that cannot be sold reaches those most in need.
“Ensuring that good food goes to people is beneficial for society, the environment and the economy and is consistent with the targets in the [voluntary] Courtauld Commitment, of which Tesco is a signatory.”
Calls for redistribution sparked by new French law
The move to implement the scheme in the UK follows quickly after the French National Assembly unanimously voted on 22 May to pass an amendment that will see food waste banned from French supermarkets.
Under the amendment, from July 2016 all stores over 400 square metres in size must have entered formal agreements with food redistribution charities to pass on edible food waste, while all food past its sell-by date must be sent for composting or for use as animal feed.
Those stores that do not comply will be liable for fines of up to (£53,000) or two years imprisonment.
A petition calling for a similar ban in the UK has gained over 160,000 signatures in the two weeks it has been on the 38degrees website, and Scottish MP Stuart McMillan has also written to the Scottish Government asking it to give serious consideration’ to implementing a similar law.
Speaking today, McMilland said: “I am pleased to learn that Tesco is to launch a new scheme to donate leftover food to charity. This move is a welcomed step and demonstrates that supermarkets can ensure that food is not wasted...
“These measures are steps in the right direction and I hope other supermarkets will take similar action.
“We must never forget that currently thousands of our fellow Scots are reliant upon food banks and Foodshare organisations. Therefore, I believe as politicians we must do all that we can to tackle the issue of food wastage and I will continue to raise this issue in public.”
Charities and community groups wishing to get involved in the Tesco pilot can register their interest or learn more about the scheme via the FareShare website.