Tesco is using its delivery lorries to transport waste and out-of-date food, to cut costs and save fuel. Once the delivery lorries have dropped the food off at stores, they load up with waste and return via a waste site. It has said this will help save the planet - as well as saving the company a packet.
But should we be concerned?
The Guardian reported that waste collections had been cancelled from Tesco's 600 largest stores, and the return journeys of delivery lorries were being used instead. Waste is packed into metal crates lined with plastic, and dropped off on the way back to the distribution centre. A Tesco spokesperson told the newspaper that it would save 20,000 journeys and 4.5 tonnes of carbon a year.
The supermarket said that the vehicles were inspected and cleaned after every trip, and had a regular deep clean. The Daily Mail highlighted that by law they cannot use the same containers to hold the waste and the food, but provided they are cleaned between trips they can use the same lorries, so this approach is perfectly acceptable.
The new arrangements apply to the large lorries, and not the ones used for home deliveries.
Concern?It's worth bearing in mind that Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer have been doing this for some time, and provided that standards of cleanliness are high enough, there's no reason why there should be any contamination.
However, both newspapers questioned whether this approach was rather unsavoury. The Guardian quoted Neal Austin, Morrisons' logistics and supply chain director, who explained why Morrisons doesn't use this approach: "Technically, we would have a concern about the risk of contamination given the closed environment within the trailers. More importantly, we don't believe our customers would feel comfortable knowing that the fresh food they were eating had been delivered in a lorry that a few hours earlier had been carrying waste food products."
AlternativesIt's easy to see why the supermarkets would be keen to use the return journeys. One in four of all the lorries you see travelling up and down the motorway are empty, which wastes money and fuel - and causes endless congestion.
However, there are some clear alternatives which take advantage of the return journey without having to transport waste. Tesco has been using the return journey to transport items that people have sent back to the store. It takes returns from 2,000 of its stores in this way. Plenty of supermarkets also use the return trip to bring back empty boxes and other packing materials.
Some Sainsbury's lorries will also collect from suppliers on their way back to the distribution centre. It means they are carrying items they are equipped to carry, and they don't have to worry about health and safety standards because they have already cleared these people as suppliers.
Asda, meanwhile, has brought out double-decker lorries, so they can make half the journeys. Over the last five years these lorries have saved 10 million road miles.
But what do you think? Would it bother you to know that waste is being transported in food delivery lorries?