This week, three men were charged after being caught ‘stealing’ food from bins outside an Iceland store in Kentish Town. Following a public outcry the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) subsequently dropped the charges despite an earlier claim that there was ‘significant public interest’ in pursuing the case against the men.
The episode coincides with news that over 15 million tonnes of food is discarded in the UK each year – and green campaigners believe that this is partly due to poor buying and marketing practices by British supermarkets.
In response to this criticism, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has announced that the Big Four supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, along with Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op, will begin to release regular data regarding food waste from early 2015.
Tesco has already got the ball rolling with an admission that 28,500 tonnes of food waste were generated in the first six months of 2013 at its nationwide stores and distribution centres, with two thirds of bagged salads and 40 per cent of apples consigned to the bin.
Yet while this certainly seems like a positive first step, green campaigners believe more must be done in order to effectively tackle the issue of food waste in supermarkets.
Friends of the Earth food campaigner Vicki Hird says; “Food waste has been growing over the last few decades because of the way supermarkets have driven consumption.
“These figures will indicate how over-purchasing and other poor buying practices are occurring, but retailers need to really examine whether their marketing strategies are fit for purpose in today’s resource-confined world.”
Retailers have already taken huge steps in reducing the amount of waste food sent to landfill sites since 2005, with the amount last year amounting to only 6 per cent of total food waste. This compares to 47 per cent in 2005, and retailers participating in the food waste reduction scheme hope to further lower this to only 1 per cent by 2020.
A target has also been set to cut absolute carbon emissions by 25 per cent based on 2005 levels over the next six years. Although the average cut in the amount of carbon emitted per store has dropped by 30 per cent since 2005, the opening of new outlets has meant that retailers only managed to cut total emissions by 8 per cent – yet with convenience stores overtaking larger supermarkets, this target should be easier to meet than in previous years.
BRC director of food sustainability Andrew Opie believes that the recent debate over the carrier bag tax has clouded the issue somewhat and drawn attention from more important conservation endeavours.
He says; “That has been a bit of a distraction from bigger issues on waste.
“Once the issue around carrier bags is over we can really concentrate on the areas which will make the most difference.”
Do you think food retailers should cut down on waste by donating food to charity initiatives such as food banks?
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