Waste not, want not


Rob Steadman examines the volume of wasted food by supermarkets and explores an organisation tackling the problem.

The global economic recession continues to leave millions of UK households struggling to cope or in poverty. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports unemployment at a 17-year high. With the recent news of increasing energy costs, along with the continuing rise in the price of food, it is safe to say that a policy of waste not want not could be vital.


Despite this, most of the major supermarkets across the country literally throw away billions of pounds worth of fresh, in-date food. All of the big five: Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Morrison’s, with a combined market share of 83.5% (TNS Global), are among the supermarket giants discarding perfectly good food.
Most of the big five say they are committed to becoming carbon neutral. A nice benefit for their image but the level of their wastage is a big concern, especially for the National Consumer Council (NCC). Investors may wish to scrutinize the figures posted publicly by these companies, which include their wastage amongst other environmental concerns, such as food, transport, waste, nature (fish and trees) and sustainable farming.

The NCC cites food as, “the typical household’s number one contributor to climate change” and the ONS states that over £17billion worth is wasted in the UK today. Food that is either slightly out of date or imperfect is considered surplus to supermarkets. This wastage is destined to end up in landfill.
There are some organisations, such as Fareshare, who stockpile surplus supermarket food, amass it in their various depots, and give it out to the poverty stricken and homeless.  According to Fareshare of the 17 million tonnes of food that ends up in a landfill, four million is perfectly edible. Their mission is to,
“redistribute food to minimise surplus and wastage, our efforts in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a reduction of 1,800 tonnes of carbon emissions”.

Several of the big five currently work with Fareshare.  

Lindsay Boswell, CEO, says, “three million tonnes of food is wasted every year by the food industry. If just 1% of this food was edible and redistributed by FareShare it would help minimise their surplus. The biggest main retailer we work with is Sainsbury’s however Morrison’s still currently do not work with us.”   

Boswell stresses that FareShare is “a fantastic opportunity. We need more companies to get on board to use this resource more efficiently, to the benefit of the environment and the community.”

Find more information on FareShare here.