There’s a heatwave out there. Fancy a steaming bowl of soup? Not really? So what happens to the stacks of unsold fresh soup stacked up in supermarkets up and down the land?
All too often it gets dumped into landfill. Food that doesn’t get sold, products that are caught out by changes in the weather, packaging from food that was never even opened can all be bulldozed into landfill.
But in an effort to reduce this waste – and to make better use of unsold food – a charity is launching a project to find more beneficial uses for the unwanted food mountain.
FareShare, a charity dedicated to reducing food poverty, is offering supermarkets, manufacturers and sandwich chains an alternative to using landfill.
Working with companies such as Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose, it currently takes unsold food to provide meals for about 12,000 homeless and low-income people every day.
And now it wants to provide a much wider service, charging a fee to get rid of much larger quantities.
"In the past, we might have been offered 100 pallets of some type of food by a manufacturer – but we could only take a quarter. So now we want to be able to take all of it – and offer them different ways of disposing it," says the charity’s spokesman, Alex Green
As well as distributing it for meals – through 320 organisations helping the homeless, elderly and children’s charities – the charity will now re-use the food in other ways such as composting and re-cycling the packaging.
"We want to maximise the use of good food. We want as little as possible of the product to go into landfill," says Mr Green.
The charity estimates that about five thousand people in each parliamentary constituency in the UK are malnourished – and it wants to use surplus food to improve the quality and quantity of these people’s diets.
At present, FareShare collects, stores and redistributes about 2,000 tonnes of food each year. But this is only a small fraction of the amount that gets thrown away.
Just how much food and food packaging gets put into landfill is uncertain.
Food into energy
According to the government-funded recycling agency, Wrap, about five million tonnes of food goes into household waste. And there are estimates of total consumer and industrial food waste reaching 17 million tonnes, including four million tonnes of edible food.
A report this year from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs showed how small changes in packaging could make a difference. Taking out a layer of plastic from a KitKat multipack saved 160 tonnes of waste, it says.
And individual supermarkets have been examining ways of re-using unsold food. Tesco is testing "gasification" technology which would use food waste to generate energy.
By Sean Coughlan