Food surplus redistribution charity, The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) is currently working with Durham County Council as part of their planned expansion across the North East. For just £7.50, TBBT fills members’ shopping bags with a minimum of £35 worth of goods made up of quality fresh food and store cupboard staples from supermarkets. The scheme aims to make life more affordable for people on a low income, reduce food waste and build stronger communities by using an innovative and self-sustaining approach to the redistribution of surplus food and non-food items.
Food surplus occurs when the supply of food exceeds demand and there are many different reasons for this:
- Over-production – it can be difficult for producers to estimate seasonal demand for the quantity of food to grow/make.
- Imperfect/off-cuts – foods are discarded because they don’t look ‘perfect’ or not as attractive as they ‘should’. Additionally, ‘off-cuts are discarded as they don't fit standard packaging sizes.
- ‘Best Before Dates’ – many people discard food when it has passed its ‘best before date’ not knowing it can usually safely be eaten after this date.
- Damaged packaging – the food might be thrown away simply because the packaging has been damaged during manufacture/transportation.
Waste and resources charity WRAP highlight the scale of the problem of food wastage in the UK. Their research shows:
- Annual food waste from UK households, hospitality, and foodservice, food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors in 2018 was estimated at around 9.5 million tonnes – the equivalent of £19 billion!
- Of the 43 million tonnes of food purchased in the UK, the amount wasted is around 10 million tonnes! By weight, household waste makes up 70% of all food wasted in the UK - 60% of that wasted food could be eaten.
The benefits of reducing food waste are huge:
- Financial - in 2018, UK households threw away 6.6 million tonnes of food, compared to 8.1m in 2007. Excellent news? Yes but…4.5 million tonnes of this could have been eaten creating a saving worth £14 billion or around £60 per month for the average family with children.
- Environmental – 4.5 million tonnes of food generates 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 a year - the same as taking 2.4 million cars off the road for a year.
- Energy conservation – as well as reducing the pollution produced by wasted food, the energy and resources from growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling of it could be reduced - less demand for food production means fewer resources are needed.
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