UK retailer Sainsbury’s has unveiled its latest move in the fight against food waste, by announcing a £1 million fund available to towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The commitment is the second phase of its Waste Less, Save More strategy - a five-year plan designed to help households save money by reducing food waste in the UK.
Announced at an event in Birmingham on November 8, the £1 million investment will be available to towns and cities that have signed up as Waste Less, Save More ‘Discovery Communities.’ From Dundee to Truro, over 110 towns and cities have already enrolled, with others still able to apply. Participating communities, 30 of which were represented at the event have been tasked with implementing programs that have proved successful during a year’s worth of research in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, where the retailer launched the first phase of its food waste scheme in January 2016.
Food waste has become a hot topic in Europe, following France’s vote to forbid supermarkets from destroying less-than-perfect produce and Intermarché’s “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign, and the UK has decided to take up the banner of the cause on its own turf. Currently producing more food waste than any other European nation, Britain has set an ambitious goal to halve its food waste by 2025. The country’s Waste Resource Action Program (WRAP) has over the last two years been working with companies including Sainsbury’s towards creating solutions that meet this target.
Speaking at the event in Birmingham, Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Property, Engineering and Environment for Sainsbury’s, said: “With well over 100 communities already signed up, the response so far has been overwhelming and really highlights that the nation is waking up to food waste. Not only will a reduction have a huge environmental impact, but with families throwing away £700 a year on uneaten food, it will help put more money back in the pocket of British people, too.”
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In addition to the funding, Sainsbury’s will provide Discovery Communities with detailed guidance to enable them to replicate the work in Swadlincote with a range of free or low-investment solutions. These include running community events and school programs, as well as larger initiatives, such as the introduction of new technology in households.
Communities will be able to pick and choose their options based on their requirements, and apply for top-up funding to put these in place. Those with additional ideas can also pitch concepts to the Waste Less, Save More “Dragon’s Den” (the British and Canadian equivalent of “Shark Tank”)-style panel, which will approve additional funding for outstanding concepts.
“Today’s event has highlighted a huge appetite to reduce food waste across the country from local councils, community groups and businesses,” says David Rogers, Head of WRAP’s International Food Waste Program. “WRAP’s research has shown the scale of food waste in the UK, and we know that action is needed — for people, our pockets and the planet. I’m delighted to see initiatives from Sainsbury’s shine a light on the issue of food waste, and we look forward to working together and supporting them every step of the way.”
Launched in late 2015, Waste Less, Save More is a five-year strategy from Sainsbury’s to help its customers waste less food and save more money. Each year, homes throw away 7 million tons of food, costing families an estimated £12.5bn. Following a nationwide search, Swadlincote was selected as a test-bed for activity, with Sainsbury’s trialing a wide range of new initiatives across a one-year period.
Trials taking place in the town include the Olio app, which encourages food sharing amongst neighbors; and the ‘Fab Foods’ program, which has been designed to engage local schools. Elsewhere, households are testing innovative technology such as smart fridges with internal cameras. By allowing residents to view contents via their smartphone, these fridges eliminate the risk of doubling up during food shopping trips, a practice which costs the UK £1.5 billion each year.