Neighbourly, a social network connecting local projects and community needs with companies ready to help with funds and volunteers, has announced the expansion of its food surplus program to include non-food product donations. UK retail giant Marks & Spencer (M&S) is the first to sign onto the donation scheme.
The expansion marks a significant step forward not only for the organization’s charity partners, but also for retailers. Redistributing unwanted but still useful items offers an effective way to reduce raw material consumption, landfill use and CO2 levels.
The move follows research conducted by the organization, which found that 92 percent of its food charity partners identified a need for non-food donations, such as cleaning and laundry products and toiletries. Partners also said they were also in need of kitchen equipment and furniture.
To date, the Neighbourly surplus scheme has redistributed over 1,500 tons of surplus food — the equivalent of 1.8 million meals. Over 700 charities — which include homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, community centers and schools — have so far joined the intiative and together they provide around 95,000 meals each month to their communities with the donated food.
In response to the explicit need for non-food items, Neighbourly has expanded its platform to accept a wider range of products from businesses. Products now accepted by the surplus scheme include (but are not limited to) laundry and household items; toiletries; baby care; pet supplies; furniture; electrical items; technology items; kitchenware; clothing and textiles; toys; sports equipment; books; garden items; and painting and DIY equipment.
M&S was one of the first retailers to participate in the program when it was first introduced in 2015. The company is now asking all of its stores to donate any surplus non-food items, such as those that may have damaged packaging but are still fit for purpose, in addition to the usual food products. The retailer has said it will donate batteries, bags, plant pots, cleaning and laundry products, air fresheners, personal care items and pet food.
“In addition to our regular surplus food donations, the donation of non-food items forms part of our overall Plan A 2025 aim to become a zero-waste business by 2025. Being able to maximize the reuse of non-food products in not only good for our business, but it is also good for the environment and for local communities by enabling them to focus their funds on their core activities,” said Louise Nicholls, Head of Responsible Sourcing at M&S.
Starbucks has also committed to participate in the expanded scheme. The company, which has collaborated with Neighbourly since 2014, will use the feature in its new Community Café program, enabling not-for-profit cafés to order Starbucks products and collect them from their local store. The Starbucks product donations aim to fill a void left from falling income for these charitable spaces and include a range of kitchenware items, as well as food and drink.