The move towards net zero: How supermarkets are cutting food waste

The recent COP26 meeting at Glasgow highlighted multiple sources of waste that are vital contributors to climate change, and food waste is one of them.

Based on recent data, the food sector emits about 17.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, which is 19X more than commercial planes.

Because of this, top leaders at five of the UK’s largest supermarket food chains have pledged to cut down the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by 50% by the end of this decade.

The promise

According to experts, the chief goal of COP26 was to keep the increase in global temperature to about 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels — the maximum limit, beyond which the impact on the earth will be catastrophic.

According to estimates, the food sector accounts for 37% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and around 60% of the biodiversity loss worldwide. Reductions in these numbers, therefore, would contribute significantly to keeping climate change within manageable levels.

The top management of Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco, Co-op and M&S have signed a pledge to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket at their stores, including global warming, deforestation, and the effect on soil and oceanic biodiversity.

They will collaborate with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to achieve these goals, to cut down the natural destruction and greenhouse gas emissions caused by their food waste and packaging materials.

These supermarket chains collectively cater to the needs of over half of shoppers in the UK. In a joint statement signed by all five of them, they stated that they wished to bring nature loss to a stop by 2030. A great initiative indeed!

To that effect, they committed to setting science-backed targets to create an impact that contributes towards keeping global temperatures to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

In addition, they committed to sharing regular reports with the WWF on how they are progressing with environmental impact reduction and the further actions they plan to take.

“As CEOs of leading UK food retailers, we recognise that a future without nature is a future without food,” they stated.

The potential impact

The promise from these retailers has been hailed as ‘game-changing,’ with WWF representatives expressing a hope that other food retailers would soon follow suit.

According to Tanya Stelle, the CEO of WWF, food production is one of the biggest threats to planet Earth. Food retailers must play their part to tackle the climate and nature emergency efficiently.

If the promise is followed through, shoppers can feel good about climate-conscious purchases that do not further disturb the delicate balances in nature.

Consumer bodies have also viewed the statement with favour. They agree that supermarkets must do everything in their power to help consumers make the significant lifestyle changes needed to tackle the climate emergency in a way that stands the test of time.

Food waste recycling gaining precedence

Separating food waste from other types of waste such as paper, plastic, or glass ensures the former gets recycled more efficiently and more usable quantities are salvaged.

Plus, recycling food waste through the Anaerobic Digestion process produces biogas that, in turn, generates green energy. Recycling means that less waste is sent for incineration, a highly polluting process releasing large volumes of smoke and carbon dioxide.

Things will look up in the years to come

The 2020s, in many respects, would be the determining decade for climate change mitigation across the globe. However, achieving such an ambitious goal requires systematic investment in alternative energy options.

The good news is Britain diverts much of about 100 million tonnes of organic waste material to sustainable production rather than landfill. But it is not every day that you see brands doing their bit for efficient food waste management.

Unfortunately, recycling food waste sustainably is still not the norm for a lot of people and businesses, and many continue with disposal methods that add to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. So it is good to see five supermarket brands doing their bit!

If you are keen to know how your business can contribute to the green energy revolution, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today!

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