A British supermarket is taking the waste not, want not approach -- and it’s anything but rubbish.
By December, 150 of Marks & Spencer's biggest stores will be ready to donate any extraneous products that are nearing their expiration dates, the company announced in a press release on Friday. Its ultimate goal is to reduce food waste by 20 percent in the next five years.
The program is feeding people in need, cutting back on waste and also combating misunderstandings with regard to what expiration dates on food items actually mean.
Those dates typically just indicate when a product has reached its “peak,” but don’t necessarily mean the food has spoiled at that time, Time reported in 2013. That’s often especially the case with foods that don’t require refrigeration.
But many consumers are often unaware of that and are too quick to throw out food that’s perfectly edible. More than 90 percent of Americans discard food prematurely, and 40 percent of the U.S.’s food supply goes unused due to dating, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic report.
Marks & Spencer plans on doling out fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes and groceries, and by spring, all of its stores will be involved in the program, according to the release.
The company is orchestrating the operation through Neighbourly, a social network, so that the process will be streamlined and can offer consumers and supporters live updates.
The company first launched the initiative with six stores in the Bristol and Bath areas. Since April, the stores redistributed nearly four tons of food to a number of local charities.
Marks & Spencer appears to be following the lead of another major U.K. chain.
In June, Tesco announced that 10 of its stores would give away unsold food at the end of each day to charities that support children in need and women in crisis, Reuters reported.
Tesco noted that it discarded about 30,000 tons of perishable food at its stores and distribution centers over the past year.
"This is potentially the biggest single step we've taken to cut food waste," Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, told Reuters. "We hope it marks the start of eliminating the need to throw away edible food in our stores."