The supermarket has partnered with UK food redistribution charity FareShare and Irish social enterprise FoodCloud to trial a new app in the UK.

Tesco store managers will alert charities, via the FareShare FoodCloud app, to the amount of surplus food they have at the end of each day.

The charity then confirms it wants the food, picks it up from the store and turns it into meals for those in need.

The scheme is already in place at Tesco stores in Ireland, and will now be piloted in ten Tesco stores around the UK. The supermarket is targeting a gradual roll-out across the rest of the UK, and said its annual food waste could potentially provide 70m meals.

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said: “It’s shocking when you look at the numbers. Even though just 1% of food waste is from supermarkets, 55,400 tonnes of food was thrown away at Tesco stores in the past year. About 30,000 tonnes of that could have been eaten.”

“The fact is there are people up and down the country who are hungry, and could really use the food we throw away. And one day, we want all of that food – all 30,000 tonnes of it – to be turned into those 70 million meals for the people who need it.”

Tesco video: The new FareShare FoodCloud app

Wider issue

Around 30% of food produced for UK customers goes to waste. Half of that is lost on farms and in the supply chain, with a similar amount thrown away in the home.

According to WRAP, the average family with children puts about £700 worth of food in the bin each year, much of it still unopened in its packaging. Just 1.3% of all food waste comes from supermarkets.

Lewis said that Tesco had a responsibility to reduce the vast amount of food being wasted beyond its stores.

He added: “We’re already working with our suppliers to cut food waste in the supply chain, working directly with them on ways to use as much of the crop as possible.

“We’ve also ended “Buy One, Get One Free” promotions on fruit and veg and are working with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to include ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ hints and tips on the packaging for many of our fruit and vegetable products.

“We’re the only UK supermarket to publish data on food waste. But we know that publishing the numbers is just the start and there’s much more we need to do to make sure the number we publish keeps going down, year by year.”

Broad benefits

WRAP – which receives funding from Defra and the EU – welcomed Tesco’s  announcement.

Richard Swannell, the director of sustainable food systems at WRAP said: “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 Courtauld Commitment, of which Tesco is a signatory.”

Public support 

There has been rising pressure on UK supermarkets to cut down on waste in recent weeks, after France passed a law forcing retailers to give unsold food to charities.

That sparked a petition – now signed by 166,000 people – calling for the UK government to pass a similar law.

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.

Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie