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Mind the Waste Gap

During the Second World War, Sainsbury’s supported families as they tried to keep themselves well fed, despite a lack of supplies. Adverts suggested alternatives to butter, bacon and sugar, the first goods to be rationed in 1940, to help customers’ supplies last longer.

The supermarket was self-service in those days, so people would wait in line to be served rather than helping themselves from shelves – halved the size of its labels on cans, to reduce the amount of waste paper. And staff even took it upon themselves to save food from being wasted when the Union Street bacon stoves at Blackfriars, London, were bombed. They worked through the night to save as much frozen meat as possible.

After the war, we continued to help families. Our magazine Family, published from 1961 to 1964, offered tips to make food go further and suggestions for leftovers, providing the seeds for our recent campaign to Make Your Roast Go Further, recognising the Sunday roast as one of the biggest contributors to food waste.

Fast-forward to 2016, and waste remains as high on our agenda today as it has been throughout our 147-year history, as we strive to give customers the best value.

The growing food waste gap is one of the biggest issues facing households today. Our research with YouGov shows that people are unaware of how much food they throw in the bin. Families today throw away 44 meals a month, though they imagine they throw out a quarter of this amount. This amounts to an average £58.30 of food per household, although people estimate they waste less than £30 a month.

In reality, while 80 per cent of UK families believe they waste little or no food, over 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food waste is binned annually – and this has grave consequences for our wallets, and the environment too.

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Swadlincote - the community that made the Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more town challenge happen

The first year is all about trying and testing what works (and what doesn’t) therefore we ran a search for a town to work with to create a food waste pilot. The market town of Swadlincote, in Derbyshire, won this opportunity and we’re now working with the local community to cut household waste by 50 per cent. We’ll be actively helping residents to cut down on waste, installing fridge thermometers and smart kitchen appliances as well as looking at things we can do in store to make a real difference. The town is also the first place outside London with a food sharing scheme, where neighbours share surplus or unwanted food, through the app Olio.

We’re hoping that each household in the former mining town will save £350 a year, but that is just the start of our ambition. We’ll be monitoring and measuring our work in Swadlincote, and most importantly – we’re going to be sharing everything we learn. We want the legacy of this project to be a blueprint for other communities to replicate.

For waste-reducing tips of your own, discover our Our Waste less, Save more website, which is brimming with useful tips on food storage (we learnt cake can be frozen) and recipes for leftovers. The Food Rescue tool invites you to choose a type of food you want to save and suggests recipes to save it from the fate of the bin.

We’ve launched Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more campaign to build on our history and continue to lead the way with less. Alongside reducing food waste, we will reduce packaging by half by 2020. We’ve achieved zero waste to landfill as a supermarket and want our customers to waste less with Sainsbury’s.