The coolest things supermarkets are doing to help cut food and plastic waste

The coolest things supermarkets are doing to help cut food and plastic waste

We’d all love to shop locally. There’s something quite idyllic about buying sustainable, ethically-sourced produce – in brown paper bags, of course – from independent sellers, whose food waste tally is next to none. But the truth is, for most of us, the big weekly food shop is done at a major supermarket.

According to WRAP, an estimated 10.2 million tonnes of food and drink, worth around £20 billion, is wasted every year. And while every UK supermarket has signed a pledge to help halve food waste by 2030, that can seem an awfully long way off.

However, some supermarkets and countries are taking to the cause a little quicker, like S-Market in Finland, which according to the New York Times runs a ‘Happy Hour’ daily, where hundreds of food items set to hit their expiration date at midnight – and already discounted by 30% – go on sale with a whopping 60% off at 9pm. It’s a bargainous clear-out, suiting store and customer alike – as long as you cook (or freeze) whatever you’ve bought, quick.

Way ahead of the game, throwing away unsold food was banned in France in 2016 – surplus must be donated to charities and food banks, an ethos adopted by Lidl and its Feed It Back project, which redistributes surplus to good causes. Their ‘Too Good to Waste’ boxes overflow with wonky veg as well (after all, how different really is a crooked carrot to a ‘perfect’ carrot? We’ve got to stop body-shaming veg).

The Scandinavians are pioneers when it comes to cutting food waste. In Denmark, it is legal to sell clearly-labelled date-expired food, just as long as there are no health concerns.

Meanwhile, in 2018, the Netherlands became the first country to launch plastic-free supermarket aisles. The Amsterdam branch of Ekoplaza saw around 700 products go ‘nude’ – helping to cut plastic and encourage shoppers to buy the amount they need, rather than in bulk.

Thornton’s Budgens in London swiftly followed suit, becoming the first UK supermarket to feature plastic-free zones, and now Waitrose is flirting with the idea too. Their Waitrose Unpacked trial is being extended to a total of four stores, and offers customers the option to bring in their own containers to use at dedicated refillable zones and frozen pick and mix areas.

Waitrose are also set to introduce pullet eggs or ‘mini eggs’, laid by chickens that haven’t yet reached maturity. The eggs are just as tasty, but a little on the small side and don’t meet standard size regulations, so aren’t sold and tend to go to waste if farmers can’t use them up. But they’re super cute.

While we can all do our bit at home – using up leftovers, making the most our freezers, eschewing 2-4-1 offers to buy only what we need and will actually eat, we can also lobby our supermarkets to change their practices. We have buying power, let’s use it.

- Press Association

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