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This Supermarket Wasted 59,400 Tonnes of Food Last Year

Despite introducing measures to cut waste, British supermarket chain Tesco threw away 4 percent more food in 2015 than the year previous.
Photo via Flickr user WordShore

British consumers may be unaware of the amount of food they throw away each year but Tesco can no longer bask in such blissful ignorance. According to the national supermarket chain's latest annual report, it could be wasting more food than ever.

Figures released in Tesco's April report showed that despite introducing measures to combat food waste, the supermarket threw away 59,400 tonnes of food in 2015/16—a figure up 4 percent on last year.


On the basis that an average meal weighs 0.5 kilograms, that's equivalent to 119 million meals.

Despite the damning figures, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis was a keynote speaker at this year's Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum in Cape Town and spoke earlier this week on tackling food waste in the food sector.

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Since Lewis took over the supermarket chain two years ago, a "wonky fruit and veg" range was introduced in an effort to sell produce that would have otherwise been chucked and "buy one get one free" offers on fruit and vegetables were abolished as a way to reduce consumer waste.

But Tesco's latest figures suggest that this is still not enough. According to the report, the amount of food wasted by the chain "is equivalent to 1 percent of the number of food products we sold in […] stores over the same period" and is up on the 57,100 tonnes reported wasted in the 2014/15 report.

When asked about this increase in food waste, a spokesperson for Tesco told MUNCHIES that the chain's bakery and drinks section could be to blame. They said: "Two categories the data has shown an increase in are bakery and beers, wines, and spirits. We developed a plan to look at our in-store bakery waste, and the majority of the increase in beers, wines, and spirits is due to the clearance of discontinued and deranged stock from the business."

The spokesperson added that food waste initiatives on fruit and veg have had a positive impact: "We have actually seen a decrease in some categories, including a 2 percent reduction in produce." Tesco also announced in March that by the end of 2017, all surplus food will be donated to charity through a new Community Food Connection programme.

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Currently, none of the other major UK supermarkets publish their food waste data so there's no way of knowing exactly how much the sector wastes each year. The Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates that food and drink accounts for 20 percent of the UK's CO2 emissions. While French supermarkets are now required by law to donate unsold food to charity, it seems there's still a long way to go in Britain.

Probably best for us to keep putting those orange peels in the food waste bin, then.