Surplus food that can’t be used by the UK supermarket chain’s charity partners is now processed into animal feed to support British farmers or used to generate energy through anaerobic digestion, the company says. All general waste from stores is recycled or turned into fuel.
Sainsbury’s says it is the UK’s largest retail user of anaerobic digestion.
In addition to turning waste into energy, the company says it met its zero-waste target by giving food to charities.
In 1994, Sainsbury’s helped to found FareShare, a UK food redistribution organization. It now provides the charity — and more than 400 local food donation partners — with food fit for human consumption.
Sainsbury’s also launched a large-scale food drive, the Million Meal Appeal, to collect non-perishable food and augment its FareShare donations. In 2011 and 2012, after just three days, 3.2 million meals were collected — half donated by customers and half matched by Sainsbury’s. In 2012-13 Sainsbury’s donated more than 10 million meals to food charities across the country including FareShare.
The company says it’s also providing ways for its customers to waste less. For example, it changed its freezing labels to say “Freeze as soon as possible after purchase and always within the use by date” instead of “Freeze on day of purchase.” Last fall, the company responded to one of the worst growing seasons in decades by changing its approach to “ugly” fruit and vegetables, allowing food to be sold that would previously have been wasted.
Earlier this month, Sainsbury’s extended its dual-fuel fleet to 51 vehicles, saving up to 25 percent in carbon emissions. The fleet operates on a combination of diesel and biomethane, produced from rotting organic material in landfill.
The company — along with all major UK grocery chains — was among the 45 UK retailers, manufacturers and brands that last month committed to reducing food and drink waste by 1.1 million metric tons by 2015 in the third phase of the Courtauld Commitment.