As part of our ambition to divert waste away from landfill by reducing, reusing, recycling or recovering energy from all our commercial waste and packaging, Waitrose aims to explore ways to reduce food waste and provide practical information in-store and online to raise customer awareness of this issue.
According to WRAP’s recent report The Food We Waste, we throw away around one-third of the food we buy in the UK, of which 61% – 4.1 million tonnes – could have been eaten. That means that, in addition to the £1 billion it costs local authorities to send this waste to landfill, we spend £10 billion every year on food that is just thrown away. But if we put a stop to such waste, we could save the equivalent of 18 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year – the equivalent of taking one in five cars off our roads.
How the issue was tackled
Waitrose’s aim is to minimise food waste through accurate ordering and ensuring any food waste we do produce is diverted from landfill. As part of our efforts to tackle food waste from our operations an increasing number of Waitrose shops now send their food to an aerobic plant in Bedford to create ‘green’ electricity and high nutrient fertiliser, last year this accounted for 307 tonnes of waste. This process will be further trialled in John Lewis Oxford Street and Peter Jones in the first half of 2009.
Waitrose works collaboratively with our suppliers to ensure our quality and delivery specifications minimise food wastage. We have also endeavoured to accept food that is cosmetically imperfect in order to support our suppliers in the event of unforeseen and difficult weather conditions. For instance promoting visually imperfect produce for cooking and jam making through the Cooks’ Ingredients range.
We are also working with our farmers and growers to reduce waste within the supply chain. For example, we have been working very closely with a group of 100 banana growers in the Windward Islands to look at how fruit is cultivated and transported with the aim of reducing wastage on selection in the UK.
To raise awareness of the issue with Partners and customers, we support WRAP’s ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ campaign, which includes a number of packaging initiatives. We provide clear on-pack guidance on the preparation, cooking and storage of the own-label food products we sell and recommend realistic portion sizes. ‘Best before’ and ‘use by’ dates have been given greater prominence and enhanced legibility, while developing functional packaging ensures maximum shelf life without compromising product quality and safety.
Online, our food waste initiatives are highlighted and top tips are given for ways to reduce food waste in the home e.g. planning ahead before going shopping. Links to recipes show ways of using leftovers where too much food has been cooked.
Benefits and impacts
- Through our anaerobic digestion trials last year we diverted 307 tonnes of waste from landfill.
- Last year, a large percentage of the UK apple crop was damaged by hail, but we accepted the fruit for sale and communicated this to our customers.
- Wastage from shipped fruit has reduced from an estimated 40% in 2002 to less than 3% in 2008. For a high-volume product like bananas, this makes a considerable difference to food wastage and the competitiveness of the supply chain many of whom, in the case of the Windward Islands, run smaller-scale family businesses.
- Clear on-pack information helps to ensure our customers make the most of the products they buy and enjoy them at their best.
Advice to others
In our anaerobic digestion trials, in order to help enthuse our partners to successfully segregate the two food waste streams thoroughly into their separate bins of 'naked food' or 'primary packaged' food, we let each branch know on a monthly basis the benefit of their actions. Instead of expressing in the tonnage of waste food collected, what was most effective was feeding back the amount of electricity that was produced by their efforts in the form of the number of kettles continuously boiled for one hour, or the number of days one of our supermarkets could be powered for. Those measures are really tangible, and help inspire thorough segregation.
British Food at Waitrose
John Lewis Partnership
LEAF - Linking Environment and Farming
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