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Tesco's Colossal Food Waste

Tesco extra store front with cars and people

Tesco bosses have come under fire, as it was revealed that the food waste of the supermarket chain rose to the equivalent of 119 million meals during the 2015-16 financial year.

59,400 tonnes of food was wasted by the retail giant, but as they are the only supermarket to publish their food waste data, we have no idea whether this is within normally boundaries for other chains or not. The rise of 4% on last year’s figures is largely blamed on beers, wines, and spirits, while the wastage is the equivalent of 1 in 100 products sold by Tesco.

A Call to Arms

The figures were released alongside the annual report, and Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis is now calling for other chains to come together and take action on food waste right through the supply chain.

“When I arrived at Tesco, we were the only UK retail company to publish our food waste data,” he said, “What the data shows is that it’s clear where we need to focus our efforts … nearly three years after we announced it, we are still the only UK retailer publishing our data.”

person walking in front of bins

He wants other chains to redistribute waste food to those who are in need, as well as taking on the kind of changes that Tesco have: reducing the time in the food supply chain so that fresh goods last longer, selling imperfect fruit and vegetables, and pledging to deliver food to charities.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are confident that despite the small increase in our waste this year we have the right plans in place to see a reduction in future years and are proud of the work we have already done to redirect surplus food to provide millions of meals for those in need.”

Some Early Action

Although no other supermarket chain is yet publishing their figures, the big four – Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s – signed a voluntary agreement to reduce food and drink waste by one fifth over the next decade. The Courtauld Commitment 2025 was also signed by companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.

“Wrap welcomes Tesco’s efforts to reduce its food waste,” said Dr Richard Swannell, director at Wrap, the action programme behind the commitment. “Tesco, alongside all major UK retailers is signed up to Courtauld 2025. As part of Courtauld we report the retail sectors’ aggregate food waste levels and industry is making good progress. Just recently we published new research that shows a 200,000 tonne reduction in food waste by retailers and manufacturers. Interest and action on tackling food waste has never been greater in the UK food sector, however WRAP research shows that waste in the 27-plus-million UK households remains the greatest challenge and opportunity. Through Courtauld 2025 we are seeking to increase the sectors’ efforts in tackling food waste with consumers, as well as at an operational level.”

New Attitude and Opportunities

It’s very important that waste is looked at through all levels of the supply chain, including where food is supplied for restaurants and for the hospitality industry. If you are interested in chef jobs which help to impact sustainability, and allow a better and more efficient use of food, take a look at our job board. Having people in the know working in prominent positions is the most important way to tackle this issue.

You can also make an impact at an executive food jobs level – the people making the decisions for major companies need to be working together to forge a path towards lower waste figures. This is all part of a global effort towards less wasted food.