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Another victory against food waste

Morrisons to donate unsold food to communities

Waste notMorrisons is the latest supermarket to announce plans to reduce the amount of edible food that is discarded from its stores. The chain said that from the new year any unsold food that is still safe to eat will be donated to local community organisations.

These groups will be able come to their local store and collect the food that would previously have been wasted during the week. This includes fresh fruit and vegetables as well as products such as tins and packets.

Community organisations wanting to benefit from the scheme are asked to register with Morrisons online.

The move will be welcomed by numerous groups from those fighting food poverty to environmentalists campaigning to bring a halt to the practice of dumping edible food.

Some stores have been accused of deliberately sabotaging discarded food by pouring bleach over it to deter people from foraging in their bins.

Up to 100,000 tonnes of perfectly good food is sent to anaerobic digestion plants each year to be turned into biogas.

In June, Tesco announced that it would  donate thousands of tonnes of unsold food to charity in response to pressure on supermarkets to reduce waste.

Food wasteBritain’s biggest chain last year threw out 55,400 tonnes of food, about 30,000 tonnes of which was edible. Some food left over at its warehouses is already distributed to charities, but the company sends most of it for animal feed or to be loaded into anaerobic digestion energy plants.

Half of all bakery products and 40% of apples, as well as takeaway items such as sandwiches make up most of the food that goes unsold.

It has now developed an app with UK food redistribution charity Fare Share and another with Irish social enterprise Food Cloud. Store managers will use the app to inform charities such as homeless hostels about surplus food held at the end of each day.

The scheme has already been tested at more than 100 stores in Ireland and will go into an initial 10 stores in the UK including outlets in Glasgow, Belfast, London and Merseyside.

Labour MP Diane Abbott tabled an early day motion calling on the government to introduce legislation which would ban supermarkets from throwing away food that is approaching its best-before date and instead make it available to charities.

The idea was prompted by the introduction of similar legislation in France, which now bans large supermarkets from throwing away food in favour of handing it to charities or for animal feed.

Daily Business campaign

In February, Daily Business launched Waste Not Want Not, a campaign to reduce food being thrown away by supermarkets.

The campaign highlighted consumer concern but also evidence that shareholders would increase their returns if there was less waste. Supermarkets also have a big role to play in reducing food poverty by distributing unsold food at cheap prices. There are also arguments for changing the labelling which discourages shoppers from buying perfectly edible food that is close to its sell-by date.

The supermarkets have previously insisted they are already reducing waste significantly and claim that contrary the figures show that very little food waste comes from supermarkets and their depots.

Anaerobic plants grow

Scotland’s anaerobic digestion industry – which turns rotting food and farm waste into electricity – has mushroomed by more than two thirds in a year, new figures show.

There are now 27 AD projects in Scotland, a rise of 69% (from 16) in 12 months ago, while a further 43 have planning approval.

With a dozen more plants waiting for permission, the sector could grow by more than 200% in the next two years, figures from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) show.

The AD process involves farm slurry, vegetable peelings, paper and other organic material decomposing inside a closed chamber to produce gas, which is then used to generate electricity.

The amount of food thrown away in Scotland each year has fallen by 8% since 2009, while less than half of Scotland’s household waste was sent to landfill in 2014 – the first time that figure has ever dipped below the 50% mark, and a sign that technology like AD can help reduce demand on landfill space.

Increased numbers of household food waste collections under by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 mean more will become available to fuel Scotland’s ongoing AD boom.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “These new ADBA figures show that AD is being taken extremely seriously by Scottish businesses.

“Increasingly, waste has value. The AD process recognises that, and turns things we don’t want, like food waste and farmyard slurry, into something we desperately need – clean, affordable electricity.”

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of ADBA, added: “Scotland is leading the way in demonstrating how anaerobic digestion extracts value from our waste, while supporting farming resilience, reducing billions in carbon abatement costs, improving food security and production and generating employment and investment opportunities for rural economies.

“We are particularly excited to see AD plants working in partnership with local authorities to collect residents’ food waste and to distribute in its place heat and electricity for local homes.

“Developments in Scotland are now being used to showcase the excellent return on investment that bill payers gain from the continued deployment of AD capacity. With a commitment from government to support the technology to scale – a commitment which currently does not exist – AD can deliver baseload energy that is cheaper than new nuclear by the time Hinkley Point C is built, and that can help decarbonise UK heat, farming and transport.”

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