Co-op Group gears up for zero food waste drive

The Co-operative Group is scaling up its food waste landfill diversion strategy by back-hauling leftover food products from more than 2,800 of its stores across the UK.

The scheme, which maximises recycling and anaerobic digestion processes, will divert around 34,000 tonnes of food from landfill each year.

The back-hauling intiative is already operating across 1,500 Co-op food stores and is will shortly be rolled out to the group’s entire food store estate this summer.

It involves waste being segregated at store level, before collection and delivery by the Co-op’s logistics service to its distribution depots.

The company is working with waste contractor Biffa to process the food waste through anaerobic digestion, while customer and general waste go to a refuse-derived fuel facility. Any dry mixed items, such as bottles, tins, cans and paper are sent for recycling.

According to the Co-op’s director of trading property David Roberts, the scheme will end more than 225,000 skip collections from food stores every year and halve the company’s food waste management costs.

“Wehave pledged in our Ethical Plan to divert all our food store waste from landfill by the end of 2013, which we will achieve by the end of July, five months ahead of schedule,” he said.

“The Co-operative has one of the largest and most complex networks of all food retailers in the UK and we therefore needed a robust, but commercially viable, strategy to meet our own tough targets. The waste back-haul project is a win-win solution.”

The Co-op is currently working with its partners at Unite and Unison to implement the initiative.

Maxine Perella

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