When you first think of ‘food waste’, perhaps your mind immediately springs to that last mouldy item you discovered in the depths of the fridge which swiftly makes its way to the bin. Sadly, this used to be a common occurrence for me (and yes, I am ashamed to write this). However, over the past few years, I’ve switched my behaviours from frequently throwing out of date food into a general waste bin to producing hardly any food waste, composting the few occasional scraps and thanks to apps like ‘Too Good to Go’ and ‘OLIO’, even rescuing other people’s food from the bin!
However, the responsibility to tackle food waste doesn’t fall just to the consumer, it also falls on the producer. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my video of a Tesco employee throwing away a whole aisle of perfectly edible baked goods into a bin bag (see the photo below).
Witnessing this happen right in front of me, literally, stopped me in my tracks. I spoke to the employee who explained that he has to throw away this amount of bread every single evening.
When you consider that last financial year, 1,332,952 emergency food supplies were distributed to those in need across the UK (The Tussel Trust, 2018) this waste just seems criminal.
Tackling food waste is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a social and economic issue. The right to food is a fundamental human right and a study completed in 2015 estimated that in the U.K. approximately £13 billion of food is thrown away each year).
Inspired by public figures like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has exposed a number of supermarkets for their unjustifiable food waste under his ‘War on Waste’ campaign, after leaving the store I promised I would write an open letter to Tesco to understand exactly what happens to this waste and provide some suggestions on how it could be avoided in the first place.
Read my letter below to Tesco, I’ll keep you updated with the response I receive and will also be sharing some simple tips on how to reduce your own personal food waste! I hope this also inspires you to stand up for tackling food waste and using your voice to challenge unsustainable practices!
On Saturday 26th May at approximately 9pm I witnessed a whole aisle of fresh bread rolls and baked goods being thrown away into a bin bag at my local Tesco branch.
As I’m sure you’re aware, in the UK, 10 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually (Wrap, 2017). I couldn’t help but think of this overwhelming statistic as I disappointingly watched such a large quantity of food still fit for human consumption go to waste.
I have since looked at your website and have learnt that you work with FareShare to donate surplus food with the community and bakery surplus which you’re unable to donate to charity is made into animal feed for livestock. I think it is great that these initiatives are in place, but please can I ask why you are unable to donate fresh bakery surplus to charity?
Why is it not possible to utilise food sharing apps like Too Good To Go and OLIO to share your baked goods with the local community, when other companies including Yo Sushi and Wagamamas successfully do this?
I was so taken aback by what I saw, that I spoke to the employee throwing away the food, who explained that this activity occurs every evening and the food cannot be given to charity. Preventing this food waste (see diagram below) as I am sure you will agree is the most preferable environmental and economic option.
Please can you pass this letter and my feedback to the branch manager so that they can reconsider the quantity of cakes/bread baked each day. The consumer is becoming increasingly conscious and witnessing this food waste has made me question returning to Tesco again.
Please take this letter as an opportunity to make a significant positive environmental change within your business.
Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you,