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Supermarkets refuse to give waste to charity

Many major supermarkets have refused involvement with an initiative to take waste food to a local homeless shelter.

Julian Hutter started the program me on the 7 September after he saw large quantities of waste being loaded into black bags by the Co-operative at the end of each day.

He is currently collecting from the University of Sussex Student’s Union (SU) shop on campus as well as from two Sainsbury’s branches in the centre of the city.

Mr. Hutter takes the food he receives to St Patrick’s Church, a homeless shelter in Brighton and Hove.
Julian goes to the SU shop every evening to collect any food that will not be sold on the following day.

Lucy Kent, supervisor of the store, explained that he usually takes any uneaten patisserie items and the wraps.
She said: “Julian is really great. He always asks us to take what we want first and then takes the rest. We fully support the work that he is doing.”
Numerous supermarkets have, however, declined his offer, including the Co-operative stores on campus and around the city, Tesco, and a number of Sainsbury’s branches.

Having not received permission to collect food from the Co-op on campus, Julian decided to contact the head office directly. They have told Mr. Hutter that they plan to contact the store manager and Julian has ‘high hopes’ that they will allow him to collect their waste soon.

The store currently throws away around 6 or 7 trolley-loads each day and the plastic bags are regularly randomly checked at the end of each day to ensure that no-one has stolen any of the rubbish.

The supervisor of one of the central Sainsbury’s branches explained that head office had refused the stores permission to give their waste to charities. He said: “We don’t have any programme set up at the moment. I personally think its rubbish but we can’t give anything away.”

The Sainsbury’s waste policy statement states that: “our supermarkets and depots send no food waste to landfill, with the majority of surplus food going to charities or anaerobic digestion.”

Anaerobic digestion is an alternative to the use of landfill, which composts waste produce and can be used to generate heat and electricity. The company’s statement also claims that: “We donate any surplus food we do not sell (but is still fit for consumption) to local charities and organisations such as FareShare, who redistribute the supplies.”

Julian, however, claims that the majority of these branches’ waste is thrown away. He says: “The managers will tell you it goes to pig farming but if you ask which pig farm they aren’t at liberty to tell you. And then if you ask at the bakery where the waste goes they tell you that they just throw it out into the skip. They’ll lie to you about it. I know it’s them just reciting the official line.”

Julian also contacted FareShare directly, which the PR representative of Sainsbury’s cited as the main charity that food waste is supplied to. He says that he was informed that FoodShare stops collecting food after 6 o’clock, “which means they can’t collect any of the food that is thrown away at the end of the day.”

Julian worked at Tescos two years ago and says that he witnessed large quantities of food being thrown in the compactor at the back of the building, despite what they might tell you.

A worker at one of the Sainsbury’s branches said: “it’s ridiculous how much we throw away. We would love to give it to charity but head office won’t let us.
“It’s against corporate policy.” He explained that all rubbish is collected into plastic bags and taken to a central rubbish-sorting site by trucks the following morning. He informed us: “Some of it is sorted into recycling but it almost all goes to landfill”. Julian says: “I’m not trying to expand into something massive – I don’t have the time and running costs”.

However, he is currently only collecting from three small stores and knows he would have the means to take more food to St Patrick’s.

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