Markets are solving the food waste problem
2013-10-23 0:00

Dr. Eamonn Butler | Adam Smith Institute

Tesco, one of Britainís largest supermarkets, has revealed that it threw out 30,000 tonnes of food in the last six months. Customers throw out yet more. Appalling waste caused by the ípile it high, sell it cheapí capitalist ethic?

Nobody likes waste, particularly those of us in the baby boom generation whose parents had lived through wartime rationing Ė or those who are old enough to remember it personally. We were brought up with the mantra íwaste not, want notí. Supermarket bosses are no different from the rest of us in that respect, but they have another powerful motive to avoid waste too: it is very bad for the bottom line. Why pay producers for food that goes unsold?

That is why Tesco has actually done a survey of what customers actually ditch, going through 10,000 dustbins in their research (ugh!). It seems that 65% of bagged salad is discarded, for example. The result of that? Probably, smaller bags being put on sale from now on. And clearer instructions on food packaging about how to keep it fresh.

There are many other reasons why so much food is wasted, though. In most cases it cannot be put into pig swill any more, because of the risk of animal diseases that might affect humans, though a bit goes to local zoos. Then there is the absurd íbest byí and ísell byí labelling Ė you can blame government for that, of course.


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