An issue of waste

29 January 2010
Sarah Campbell blog pic“It’s a rubbish issue this week,” the Big Issue seller told me as I bought a copy at lunchtime. He wasn’t wrong, although as I opened the magazine I realised he was referring to the subject matter rather than to the quality of the writing. The first feature in the issue (25-31 January) is about the charity FareShare, which takes unwanted food from retailers and redistributes it to homeless shelters and drop-in centres. A quote from FareShare’s chief executive Tony Lowe jumped out at me: “The food industry has put an enormous amount of effort into ensuring that the front end of its supply chain – purchasing and manufacturing – is as ethical as possible. However, very little has been done when it comes to disposal. We know good food is being wasted and we’re challenging the industry to ensure food that cannot be sold but can still be eaten always goes to people first.” The article goes on to say that all the big-brand supermarkets are on board at some level, although other food retailers claim they don’t have enough waste to warrant signing up. I find this hard to believe. A FareShare worker points out in the article that a lot of the food she and her colleagues redistribute comes from supplier error – mislabelled goods and delivery mistakes. Maybe the retailers themselves waste very little food, but it’s difficult to believe that their supply chains work flawlessly with zero waste. Is this a case of those supermarkets that are not signed up with FareShare dodging responsibility for their supply chain?
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