Nearly a month ago, legal mandates requiring food designated for waste to be donated instead of thrown away were approved in both France and Italy. Before these mandates, individual grocery stores such as Original Unverpackt in Berlin made news as some of the first “zero-waste” grocery stores in existence.
These recent developments are part of the increasingly prevalent realisation that food waste is a real problem across the world, not only in grocery stores, but across the food supply chain. The responses to this tremendous amount of food waste are becoming stronger and stronger fortunately, reaching even greater spheres of global influence and media recognition. Anti-food waste programmes and initiatives have clearly started to evolve over the past year or two, from single stores in municipalities to country-wide legislation. But what is the next step toward food waste prevention and sustainability in the food sector?
With a collective food supply chain that could be characterised as more global than ever before, the answer to “what is the next step in global food waste prevention and sustainable conscientiousness?” could be the adoption of sustainable practices by large food distribution companies and grocers with global supply chains and annual revenue streams far larger than the GDPs of many nations.
So, which global food grocery chains are on the cutting edge of sustainable practice and policy, and what exactly are they doing now to become more sustainable organisations?
Tesco (UK) – With nearly 7,000 stores worldwide and over $100 billion in revenues, Tesco has the sprawling size to single-handedly and significantly reduce global food waste and increase global sustainability with their policy, and they are following through. Tesco recently announced plans to use FareShare, a proprietary software that will allow its food locations to coordinate logistics for large donations of unsold food to charity. This massive initiative will not only prevent unsold food from being dumped in landfills, but will also help feed the disadvantaged who lack proper food supply. Tesco plans on servicing over 5,000 charities with its FareShare-powered food donations by the end of 2017.
WalMart (US) – A chain with over 4,000 locations in the US alone, WalMart has long been known for its competitive pricing and innovation, and this reputation is spilling over into the sustainability sector as of late. In March 2016, WalMart President Dan Walsh announced plans to replace all of US WalMart in-store produce packaging with eco-friendly plastic wood-grain material. The material, unlike traditional plastic encasing used to store produce for decades, is reusable and also contributes to prevent produce waste – the new containers are aerodynamically designed to increase airflow to produce containers, which increases cooling and freshness.
Are innovations such as these the next wave of food security enhancing policies? Several reasons point to affirming that they are. With the scale of large organisations like Tesco and Walmart, the effect of sustainable policies implemented are magnified, reaching tens of millions of consumers who buy from these large chains internationally.
Additionally, while these specific chains are massively influential corporations, they are but single players in a trillion dollar/euro food market that experiences billions in waste every year. Industry-wide adoption of sustainable policies would unarguably have a lasting sustainable impact on our food system in decades to come.
Hazelblog, from Chicago-based biotechnology start-up Hazel Technologies, is a food waste and food technology blog with new instalments on their website every week.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019