Use your loaf: charity urges end to food waste

A Scottish action group is calling for supermarkets to slash the amount of food they throw away in a bid to reduce the impact on the world's poorest communities and the environment.

Lynne Paterson, Vincent Moyo and Libby Talbot, minister of St Pauls and St Georges Church, Edinburgh, launch the Renew Our World campaign with young helpers. Photograph: Chris Hoskins

Estimates show ten million tonnes of uneaten food end up in bins each year in the UK alone, with a value of more than £17 billion.

This is responsible for about 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being released into the atmosphere annually, contributing to climate change.

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Campaigners from Christian international relief and development charity Tearfund Scotland say supermarkets have a major role to play in cutting wastage and helping prevent suffering in some of the poorest regions around the globe.

They are asking for retailers to halve their food waste by 2030 and produce an action plan to show how this will be achieved.

Stores are estimated to bin at least 115,000 tonnes of food waste across the UK annually. Figures from Tesco suggest that up to 44 per cent of bread produced in the UK is left uneaten.

Lynne Paterson, director of Tearfund Scotland, said: “In Scotland we throw out enough food from our homes each year to make 800 million meals – an incredible figure when we think about the one in nine people around the world who go to bed hungry every night.

“In the communities where we work we meet people who are literally crying out for their daily bread, yet we are throwing away more than two million slices of it every day.”

She says ordinary Scots can help too by better planning menus and not overstocking perishable goods.

Research has shown that Scots throw out around 630,000 tonnes of food each year and households are shelling out nearly £40 a month more than they need to the groceries.

The new campaign is part of Tearfund’s ‘Renew Our World’ initiative, which seeks to engage individuals and churches around Scotland to tackle climate change.

The organisation is urging people to think more seriously about the link between food waste and the country’s carbon footprint, which impacts poor people in places already experiencing droughts, floods and increasingly extreme weather conditions.

“A third of all food grown in the world is never eaten,” Paterson added. “Producing food and transporting it to shops results in huge amounts of carbon emissions. If everyone in Scotland stopped throwing away food we would cut emissions by the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the roads.

“Our campaign is about encouraging everyone to cut down on the amount of food they throw away, and we believe that supermarkets have a responsibility too.”

Vincent Moyo, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Malawi, has witnessed the impacts of global warming on poor communities first-hand.

“Day in, day out, we are seeing the consequences of climate change on people who are trying to feed their families but who are unable to grow food in the same way they used to,” he said.

“The rains in Malawi are erratic, and recently we’ve experienced both floods and long periods of drought. This has meant that many of those already living below the poverty line have been pushed right to the brink of starvation.”