Hundreds of pounds of food binned by Tesco on Christmas Eve

Wasted food
Wasted food

Last year, Tesco said it would stop binning large amounts of food that was nearing its best before date, and donate it to people in need instead. However, the bins outside one store on Christmas Eve told another story entirely.

Half an hour after closing time, Rufus Pearce, a musician from Cardiff, came across hundreds of pounds worth of food in the store's bin. He retrieved it, and posted a photo on Facebook. Among the items he found were fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a large number of bakery items, some meat and even chocolate.

In response to the photo a Tesco spokesperson told The Mirror: "We're committed to ensuring no food safe for human consumption should be wasted and have robust processes in place to prevent surplus food from being thrown away."

However, on the video Pearce explains that the food is still in date, and so is still safe to eat. The vast majority was sealed in packaging, and therefore was not at risk of being contaminated and rendered unsafe. He told his Facebook friends that some of the food would be eaten for his Christmas dinner, and that some would be donated to the homeless.

Pearce regularly checks the supermarket bins for edible food that has been thrown away. He says he finds so much food whenever he checks the bins that he has more than enough for his own needs.

See also: Five ways to reduce food waste and save money

See also: Clear your plate or face a fine

See also: Bargain hunter saved £3,400 in a year of Yellow Sticker shopping

Rufus Pearce
Rufus Pearce

What about the Tesco promise?

What's particularly striking about his discovery is that Tesco promised to put a stop to wasteful binning of leftover food in March last year. It said that by 2017 all waste food at distribution centres and stores would be donated rather than binned.

The pledge came as a response to growing outrage at the sheer quantity of food wasted by the supermarkets, and a scathing report by MPs.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said at the time: "We believe no food that could be eaten should be wasted. That's why we have committed that no surplus food should go to waste from our stores. We know it's an issue our customers really care about, and wherever there's surplus food at Tesco stores, we're committed to donating it to local charities so we can help feed people in need."

It created a digital platform called FareShare FoodCloud with a food waste company called FareShare, which allows staff and charities to sign up in local areas, so they can communicate and distribute leftover food.

It turns out, however, that establishing this platform and rolling it takes longer than you might think - especially given that the supermarket is so very committed to the idea. Despite starting the ball rolling in March last year, it still hasn't reached as far as Pearce's local store. The spokesperson said: "Our Community Food Connection initiative, which provides surplus food to local charities across the UK, is already live in over 900 stores and we will be introducing it to the stores where these photographs were taken in the coming months."

What can be done?

Eventually, the scale of waste from Tesco should reduce, but there's clearly an awful long way to go - for all the supermarkets. Last year, figures from Wrap, a food waste reduction charity, found that supermarkets wasted 235,000 tonnes of food in the previous year, around half of which was perfectly edible and practically avoidable.

There are those like Pearce who have responded by making sure that the food doesn't go to waste. The trouble with this is that it is technically stealing from the bins, and some stores will pursue people taking matters into their own hands through the courts. They argue that while the food may be in date, it may not have been stored properly, and it may be contaminated with other waste, so it isn't safe to eat.

The acceptable face of waste tackling, is therefore to develop a close personal relationship with the yellow sticker area of the supermarket. If you can visit after 8pm at night you can pick up food for a fraction of the full price, in the knowledge you are stopping the supermarket from wasting it, you are picking up a bargain, and you're not endangering your health in the process.

The only challenge then, of course, is to make sure no food goes to waste once it gets through your front door.

But what do you think? Are the supermarkets doing enough to tackle waste, and is eating the food out of the bin the right answer? Let us know in the comments.