Saturday, January 18News For London

East of England Co-op fights food waste with new initiative

East of England Co-op has announced that it will start selling products past their ‘best before’ date for 10p.

Employee at Tesco reducing the price of food items for the second time that day. [Photo: Charline Bou Mansour]
In an effort to cut back on food waste, East of England Co-op will become the first major retailer to sell food beyond its ‘best before’ date. The move is a part of the company’s new campaign: The Co-op guide to dating. It will use slogans such as ‘Don’t be a binner, eat it for dinner’ to encourage people to participate.

East of England Co-op has teamed with Waste and Resources Action Programme to fight food waste. WRAP estimates that by improving labelling, the UK could save up to £1bn of food waste each year. WRAP believes that 360 million meals can be re-distributed by 2025.

While East of England Co-op is the first company to implement selling beyond the ‘best before’ date, other retailers are exploring the possibility as well as other methods to reduce food waste.

[Photo: Rahman Osman]
One such retailer is the unaffiliated Co-op group which is currently doing a trial in which they donate food that has passed its ‘best before’ date to charities or food banks.

Jiger Patel, the store manager of the Co-op store in London, said: “We are collecting products that the costumer doesn’t want or wishes to donate, which go toward the Yeading food bank each month. Every month they have a different shopping list which the customers can donate to.”

According to Patel, the stores check the dates on fresh products daily and will reduce the price by up to three times in order to sell the food. He said: “If the food is not sold, it will be sent to the companies’ recycling plant.”

“My preference is: It should go to charities and food banks rather than wasting off,” Patel said. “If you look at it on a yearly basis, it would be into millions that we are wasting off.”

WRAP estimates that nearly 1m tonnes of food are thrown away without being touched each year, often because they are past the expiry date on the label. WRAP has found that the wording on the label has an impact on the this with 50 per cent of food carrying a ‘use by’ label is wasted compared to 30 per cent with a ‘best before’ label.

Steve Williams, 67, said: “I think the whole ‘best before’ labelling should be looked at. I believe it encourages food waste.”

[Photo: Rahman Osman]
With so much food being wasted annually, some Londoners are encouraged by the initiative being taken by East of England Co-op.

Claire Davies, a social worker said: “I think it’s amazing and I hope that it will be carried out by all major supermarkets. Food wastage is a big problem in London, especially when there is so many families on low incomes. This scheme makes food more affordable for many families.”

Super markets across London are working harder than ever to make food wastage a thing of the past. Trial programmes show that potential companies are now trying to bring public awareness to the problem and putting strategies to solve it.