Tesco is preparing to become the only UK retailer to stop wasting food suitable for human consumption, promising none of its UK stores will waste produce by March.
The company’s chief executive Dave Lewis revealed the plans for all 2,654 stores, and called for other supermarket chains to follow Tesco’s example.
Mr Lewis said food waste had been “talked about for years” and insisted edible food should be used for people, rather than merely squandered as wastage.
“If Tesco can make this work, with all of our different stores across the country, then why can’t everyone?” Mr Lewis told The Daily Telegraph.
“So long as that food is fit for human consumption, I’d much prefer it to go to people than landfill or animal feed, or fuel,” he said.
Use of food banks is on the rise in the UK and thousands of Britons have become progressively more dependant on them. Not only has the use of food banks increased fourfold since 2012, but data from the Trussell Trust suggests they provided more than a million emergency food supplies to people last year.
But according to the environment, food and rural affairs committee, the UK throws away 8.1 million tons of food a year.
Mr Lewis said: “Last year we sold 10 million tons of food to the British public. But even if our waste is just 0.7 per cent of the food, that’s still 70,000 tons of food.
“And so long as that food is fit for human consumption, I’d much prefer it to go to people than animal feed or fuel.”
But he confessed that there would always be some surplus food in supermarkets.
“No matter how sophisticated the ordering systems are, it will be impossible to perfectly match the supply and demand for every one of our shops, 365 days a year, when there’s so much volatility.”
Tesco says it reduces waste by selling surplus groceries tagged with “reduced to clear” stickers and running a scheme which dishes out unsold items to local charities.
The store uses an app called FoodCloud which itemises the surplus food in each store at the end of the day, and then the information is given to local charities that collect the food.
“That goes a long way in reducing charities’ bill burdens, so they can spend the money on other things, like the cost of housing two more addicts, or providing much more needed services,” Mr Lewis said.
Tesco has also joined forces with all major UK supermarkets and signed a pledge to axe food waste by a fifth within a decade. The voluntary agreement is referred to as the Courtauld Commitment 2025.
A number of supermarkets have implemented schemes to address the issue, like shifting away from “buy-one-get-one-free” offers that have come under fire for potentially increasing food waste.
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