UK supermarket chain to donate all unsold food to charity

The UK’s largest supermarket chain Tesco has pledged that, by 2017, it will donate all leftover food from its stores to charity.

 “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,” said Tesco CEO, Dave Lewis in a statement.

“We know it’s an issue our customers really care about, and wherever there’s surplus food at Tesco stores, we’re committed to donating it to local charities so we can help feed people in need.

The nationwide scheme – Community Food Connection with FareShare FoodCloud – is being launched this week in 15 cities and regions across the UK including Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton and Portsmouth.

In the coming months the initiative will be rolled out to Leeds, Leicester, Kent and the West Midlands. Tesco has said it will reach all large Tesco stores – numbering over 800 – by the end of 2016, with all stores covered by the end of 2017.

The scheme has already been piloted in fourteen Tesco stores over the past six months and has generated over 22 tonnes of food – the equivalent to 50,000 meals.

Tesco and FareShare are calling out for 5,000 charities and community groups to join up and receive free surplus food through the scheme, as part of a huge nationwide charity recruitment drive.

The scheme will be in place in all Tesco stores by the end of 2017, which means thousands of charities all over the country will benefit from millions of pounds worth of surplus food each year.

 “We are delighted to be offering our store level solution in partnership with Tesco who are demonstrating real leadership in tackling food surplus,” commented Lindsay Boswell, FareShare CEO.

AIP announces inaugural Save Food Packaging Awards for ANZ

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) has launched the inaugural Save Food Packaging Awards for Australia and New Zealand.

Developed in conjunction with the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), the Save Food Packaging Awards are designed to recognise companies who are developing innovative and sustainable packaging that minimises food losses and food waste, extends shelf life and improves the supply of food.

 “A key component of the Save Food Packaging Awards is to raise the profile of the critical role of packaging to reduce food waste and therefore reduce product’s overall environmental impact. It is time that packaging technologists are designing packaging to save food,” commented award chairman Mr Pierre Pienaar FAIP, CPP.

“Avoiding food waste is a critical packaging issue and one that food producers, manufacturers, brand owners, retailers and consumers need to better understand. Whilst the primary function of packaging is to protect the content, the function of packaging to reduce food waste is rarely discussed.

“The connection between packaging design and food waste needs to be discussed more openly in the industry. From field to fork there are a number of possibilities for food loss and waste to occur. It has been approximated that up to 50% of the edible food produced, does not reach the fork.”

“Avoiding and preventing food loss and waste can considerably limit the scope of additional resource requirements because approximately 30% of the food that is currently lost and wasted would already be sufficient to feed the starving world population.

“About 1.3 billion tons of food is actually thrown away each year, either because it spoils due to incorrect storage, inappropriate transport methods or it no longer meets the standards of the trade and consumers. In addition, a lot of food is not eaten by consumers because, for example, the quantities purchased by them are too large.”

Powerful supermarkets push the cost of food waste onto suppliers, charities

At a time when one billion people globally experience hunger, as much as 50% of all food produced – up to two billion metric tonnes – is thrown away every year. In Australia alone, as much as 44 million tonnes of food is wasted annually.

Last year, French supermarket chain Intermarché launched a highly successful campaign encouraging consumers to purchase “ugly” food. This year, France became the first country in the world to implement laws cracking down on food waste, with new legislation banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Under this new legislation, supermarkets are required to donate any unsold food to charities or for animal feed.

While there is no law in Australia requiring supermarkets to donate any unsold food, both Coles and Woolworths have aligned with food rescue organisations to donate unsold or “surplus” food.

This surplus food is distributed amongst those experiencing poverty and food insecurity and is done voluntarily by the supermarkets under the banner of corporate social responsibility.

But our research into the issue of corporate social responsibility and wastage of fresh fruit and vegetables has identified a number of tensions and contradictions, despite leading Australian supermarkets’ zero food waste targets.

First, the strict “quality” standards required by the Coles and Woolworths duopoly means that a large volume of food does not reach the supermarket shelves. This is produce that does not meet size, shape and appearance specifications – such as bananas that are too small, or apples that are too red. If producers do not agree to meet these standards, they will lose access to approximately 70-80% of the fresh food market in Australia.

Second, the two major food retailers do not take ownership of produce until it passes inspection at the distribution centres. It is here where suppliers, such as farmers and growers, are “invited” – under the supermarket’s corporate social responsibility initiatives – to donate rejected food to rescue organisations at their own cost, or otherwise pay for further transportation or dump fees.

Thirdly, in an effort to reduce the high levels of food wasted at the farm gate, Australian supermarkets have followed France’s lead by marketing “ugly” food, (or what Intermarché termed “Inglorious Food”) – food that does not meet strict cosmetic standards, but is still perfectly edible.

While a step in the right direction, this “apartheid” between beautiful and ugly food was criticised in this study for reinforcing values that perfection comes at premium and ugly food, which is often the way nature intended, should be price discounted. Growers are also concerned about the lower prices that “ugly food” attracts, and the flow-on effects to them in reduced profits.

A final tension regarding food waste is “who is to blame”? Supermarkets attribute their high quality standards to consumer demands – however, consumers can only buy what is available at the supermarket. Supermarkets have also been criticised for marketing tactics that encourage household food waste, such as “buy one, get one free” campaigns.

Despite the lack of transparency regarding food waste in the supply chain, supermarkets – with their powerful market position at the end of the supply chain – are in a good position to transfer the problem of waste elsewhere.

They do this by setting cosmetic standards in the procurement of food which results in high level of wastage, not taking ownership of produce that does not meet their own interpretation of the standard, claiming corporate social responsibility kudos for donating to food rescue organisations (while at the same time saving on dumping fees) and differentiating between “beautiful” and “ugly” foods – reinforcing difficult-to-attain standards of perfection.

Much of the food wastage and transfer of blame for food wastage can be attributed to the market power of the duopoly. Most significant, are the proprietor-driven private standardswhich require produce to be perfect.

Although donating to food rescue organisations may be positive for people in need, it does not address the structural problems of the supply chain. This raises the question of state-led regulation, as with the case in France, to restrict food wastage at the retailer level. However, more is needed. Food waste is one symptom of excessive market power, something that needs to be addressed to steer mass food retail in a more sustainable direction in Australia.

 

Carol Richards is Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology.

Bree Devin is a lecturer in Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology.

Disclosure statement

Carol Richards receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the Norwegian Research Council.

Bree Devin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

 

This article first appeared on The Conversation. Read the original here.

Kid’s own national food recycling scheme launched

James and Monica Meldrum, founders of Whole Kids Australia have teamed up with global recycling company TerraCycle to developed Australia’s first national recycling system for kid’s food packaging.

Wholekids is stocked in major supermarkets and is aiming to up cycle wrappers of children snack foods including organic juice, popcorn and fruit bites.

Established in 2005, Whole Kids has grown to become one of the largest ranges of certified organic children snack food companies.  The program will encourage kids to up-cycle their food pouches and snack wrappers with the free recycling program.

“The Kids Pouch and Snack Brigade is an ideal solution to packaging waste that can’t be disposed of through general household recycling collections. This means that packaging pouches and wrappers from Whole Kids products can be recycled and upcycled into useful items,” Monica Meldrum said.

The recycling programs target is to help the wider community, once collecting over a kilogram of waste product, consumers receive two cents that then can be donate to a local playgroup, school or charity of your choice.

With similar programs run by TerraCycle in Europe and America, Whole kids are confident that this recycling program will be a huge success in Australia.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the support from households, schools and playgroups for this exciting new initiative, and encouraging and educating future generations about the importance of recycling,” Monica Meldrum concluded.

 “We kept over four billion pieces of waster from landfills around the world”, Anna Minns, TerraCycle Australia General Manager said.

 Visit www.terracycle.com.au/whole-kids-brigade to learn more or to join the Brigade program.

Woolworths commits to eliminate food waste

Woolworths has announced they will commit to eliminate food waste that is sent to landfill by 2020, and will begin a new partnership with Australia’s leading local food rescue organisation, OzHarvest.
 
The new partnership sees OzHarvest become the principal partner for Woolworths to collect and distribute edible food to people who are in need across Australia.
 
Woolworths will engage their network of farmers, producers, manufacturers, employees and customers to help minimise food waste as well as supporting OzHarvest’s educational campaigns on food waste reduction, such as Think.Eat.Save, an initiative partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
 
The partnership forms part of a larger commitment by Woolworths to eliminate food waste, which includes seeing edible food waste distributed by a number of organisations like OzHarvest, and other waste used for animal feed, commercial compost and power generation.
 
Managing Director of Woolworths Food Co, Brad Banducci, said: 
“Our customers want to see us reducing our food waste. We’ll do that right through the supply chain from selling our odd bunch imperfect fruit and vegetables to donating food through OzHarvest, our other food rescue partners, and other initiatives like animal food and commercial composting.
 
“Our target remains ambitious but with great partners it is achievable,” he said.
 
OzHarvest’s CEO and Founder, Ronni Kahn, was thrilled at the Zero Food Waste by 2020 pledge from Woolworths.
 
“This commitment from Woolworths is a huge advance in our collective fight against food waste. This partnership will allow OzHarvest to divert even more surplus food from landfill and further help Australians in need, addressing the broader issues of food waste, sustainability and food security.”
  
Ms Kahn said the charity was pushing for yearly waste to be cut by half by 2025.
 
“We must all take responsibility for the 4 million tonnes of food Australians send to landfill each year. Woolworths’ commitment to Zero Food Waste 2020 shows that they are serious about helping our environment as well as those in need. Now is the time for all Australians to get on board and reduce food waste!” Ms Kahn said.

 

Reducing food waste set to become the norm

A 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreement to reduce food waste by 10 per cent across the region is picking up pace as researchers and technical team members work towards their 2017 goal of developing effective strategies and actions to address urgent global food waste issues.
 

A third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That translates into about 1.3 billion ton per year. Lincoln University Associate Professor James Morton says reducing food waste is the logical first step in meeting the needs of a growing world population, which is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050. He recently attended the second of three APEC ‘Multi-Year Project’ meetings focused on addressing global food waste, where he spoke around the need to measure and reduce wastage in the livestock chain.
 
“Reducing waste and getting the best use out of what we produce makes far more sense than trying to increase food production by about 60 percent from what it was in 2005, which is what it would take to feed that many people. Producing more food through agriculture has consequences for the environment. At the moment we are taking more out than we’re putting back in. It’s not sustainable and we’re losing arable land.”
 

Issues around food loss and waste are complex and variable. Developing countries are most affected by food loss during production and food shortages, with 795 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished.  Developed countries are faced with massive food waste at retail and the point of consumption while dealing with an obesity epidemic, which affects about 600 million adults. 
 

Associate Professor Morton says finding solutions for food loss and waste is difficult when countries have different economies, production methods and natural resources. “There are no simple solutions, but there are things we can do such as minimising loss in the production process, reducing recalls, improving the cool chain and funding research into making the most use of co-products.”
 

A good example of where New Zealand has reduced losses in production by growing food to more accurate specifications is in the meat industry. Retailers catering for consumers who want less fat in their food are willing to pay more for lean meat. Farmers now grow lean animals which results in less waste of unwanted fat trimmings.
 
Meat consumption has increased significantly in recent years. “Urbanisation, a growing middle class and higher income are behind the growing demand for meat worldwide,” says Associate Professor Morton. “Livestock products offer high quality protein so meat is a very important food source.
 
“Most countries grow livestock to feed their own population. New Zealand and Australia are unique in that most of what is produced is exported. Because of that, waste is not such a concern here in New Zealand, but that waste is happening elsewhere instead – retailers carrying a wide variety of foods to respond to consumer demand and having to discard safe food by ‘best before’ dates to maintain quality standards and consumers with food left on plates and leftovers forgotten in the fridge, all lead to high levels of waste.”
 

Associate Professor Morton believes that livestock products are economically and nutritionally valuable, but that the high environmental cost of their production means reducing losses is essential. “New Zealand relies on its `clean green’ image so it makes economic sense to reduce the environmental impact of food production here.”
 

While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation supports better and increased use of co-products, it also wants to see more food items remaining in the food chain. He says that livestock co-products are often low value nutritionally but there may be opportunities to develop meat and plant protein combinations for export, if it was economically viable.
 

Food security is not a concern in Australia or New Zealand at present, but the topic is crucial elsewhere and is a stated priority in most other countries. APEC leaders see reducing food waste as a primary related task for ensuring confidence in food supply. 
 

The ‘Multi-Year Project’ aims to identify key issues and make policy recommendations around possible solutions and action plans which will ultimately be provided to all APEC member economies. APEC says increasing access to food while protecting natural resources and the environment will require intense public-private co-operation such as that envisioned by the project.

 

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Close