Supermarket food waste campaign gathers pace

Almost 130,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK government to force supermarkets to give unsold food to charities.

The EU wastes approximately 89m tonnes of food every year, with the UK the worst performing country in the bloc, throwing away 15m tonnes of food

The EU wastes approximately 89m tonnes of food every year, with the UK the worst performing country in the bloc, throwing away 15m tonnes of food

The petition is calling for a law to be passed forcing retailers to donate leftover produce that is still safe to eat to food banks. It is almost two thirds of the way to its target of 200,000 signatures, just nine days after being launched.

Lizzie Swarf, who started the the campaign, pointed to a new French law which passed on Tuesday, as inspiration.

Swarf said: “Given that the UK is facing an ever-more worrying reliance on food banks, shouldn’t we be thinking along these lines too?” She added that the petition was based upon “pure logic and the sharing of resources that are currently simply wasted”.

Adam G, who signed the petition, commented: “Having worked at supermarkets I have seen the huge proportion of edible food that is wasted when it could easily be given to the hungry. It doesn't cost government or the supermarket and it makes society a better place all the while."

The EU wastes approximately 89 million tonnes of food every year, with the UK the worst performing country in the bloc, throwing away 15 million tonnes of food.


France’s example has also sparked a wave of support for food-waste reduction initiatives, beyond Swarfs petition.

In Scotland, SNP backbencher Stuart McMillan wrote to the Scottish department for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, urging it to follow Frances’ lead. He wrote: “I believe introducing such a law in Scotland would be a massive step in helping cut down on this wastage, while also helping Scotland become a greener nation.”

In London, Mayor Boris Johnson recently announced £300,000 funding to establish a wave of 'social supermarkets' that reduce food waste by selling surplus stock at much lower prices than the high street. A pilot store in Lambeth works on a membership basis for people on income support, selling residual stock that would be thrown away by major retailers for up to 70% less than the RRP.

Wrong targets?

However, the focus on supermarket waste may be slightly misguided, as figures released this year by the British Retail Consortium showed that the UK’s seven largest supermarket chains contributed just 1.3% of all food waste in 2013. By contrast, around 42% of EU food waste comes from households.

Sainsbury's has had a crack at the issue, launching an online tool with Google that provides recipes for users to help them use up the contents of their fridge.

At the other end of the spectrum, food charity Fare Share argues that the majority of excess food is "further up the supply chain", which is where savings should be made.

The charity wrote in a blog: "The French food industry, Government and associated charities have already made huge inroads in tapping food further up the supply chain, amongst manufacturers, where the majority of surplus occurs.

"In order to successfully divert surplus food from waste, food companies across the whole supply chain must establish processes and systems that anticipate and identify surplus food within their operations and make it available for charities such as FareShare."

Brad Allen


| food | Food waste | retail | Scotland | WRAP


Waste & resource management
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