Morrison’s tweet: We’re rolling our food waste initiative out nationally so that any edible unsold food is donated to charities!
In May of last year, an online petition in the U.K. aimed to force the government to require supermarkets to give unsold food to people in need. One hundred thousand people signed the petition, but the government paid them no heed.
But the Morrison’s food store chain did: Six months later, in October, it announced it would donate all unsold food to local charities. A trial run in 126 of its stores had revealed to Morrison’s management that each store more than likely would be able to weekly fill at least four trolleys (carts) with donatable food that traditionally would have been thrown out. Across the chain’s 500 stores, that’s a lot of food that no longer will be going to waste.
A liaison person will be appointed in each store to interact with charities and oversee food deliveries to them.
Now, France has done what the British government hasn’t: Under a law unanimously approved by the French legislature earlier this month, it is illegal for supermarkets in that country to wastefully throw out food that could, and should, be allocated to charities or food banks. And the councilor who initiated the now-mandatory recycling of formerly wasted food says similar laws should be adopted across the European Union and in the U.S.
Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, what The Washington Post has called “the most interesting supermarket in the world” sells nothing but food other stores would refuse to stock because it is past its ‘sell by’ date, in packages that have been marred somehow, or that, in the case of fresh food, is blemished or old-looking.
WeFood, newly opened a few days ago, was crowd-funded to the tune of one million kroner ($145,742), much of it raised through sales of shares to the public, the company’s website says. Its prices are said by The Post to be 30-50% lower than ‘traditional’ food stores’, and despite the less than pristine appearance of its offerings, demand is high.
WeFood is not only attracting the general public: Among its early visitors was Princess Marie, the wife of Prince Joachim, one of two sons of Margrethe II, the queen of Denmark.
WeFood is staffed by volunteers and its profits support the work of a charity, DanChurchAid, in the world’s poorest countries, the store’s website says.
The Post says the new store “is a not-so-subtle swing at the modern food system, which often prioritizes food safety at the expense of waste.” The paper notes that “roughly one-third of all food produced world-wide ends up in the garbage, complicating efforts to alleviate hunger around the globe.”
In Denmark alone, as much as 1.5 billion pounds of food is send to landfills annually. In the U.S., some 70 billion pounds of food meets the same fate.
Incredibly, The Post notes, Americans “throw out more food than plastic, paper, metal and glass, a fact that reflects poorly on the country’s fussiness about eating only the freshest foods possible.”
French food retailers whose stores are more than roughly 1,300 sq. ft are motivated to comply with the new don’t-waste-food law because to do otherwise would expose them to fines of close to $5000 per incident.
Unfortunately, though, a significant number of stores are exempt from the law because, in a land where there still are an abundance of small, local purveyors of baked goods, produce, meat and other edibles, France’s food-recycling law won’t catch the probably-sizable volume of still-valid food discarded by those ‘small’ stores.
But trying to capture those stores’ discards would be inefficiently costly, and possibly counter-productive, in that such an effort could conceivable force some small retailers out of business.
There’s always the chance, though, that some of those small-sized food-selling operations could, voluntarily, as their big-store competitors are now required to, establish relationships with food recyclers, to keep even more potentially edible food out of landfills.
Whether small retailers’ economics would allow for that remains to be seen.