Several organisations in Bristol work to recycle food waste. A job that should be the responsibility of the supermarkets creating the surplus in the first place. Food banks and homeless charities, the usual recipients of supermarket surplus, lack the capacity to distribute it fast enough to those in need. This includes FareShare, the UK’s biggest supermarket food waste redistribution charity, who redistribute 1-3% of this waste nationally.
Bristol-based Skipchen estimates it regularly picked up nearly 1 tonne of surplus fruit and veg a week from a Brislington homeless charity that houses 60 people. A worker at the charity, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the supermarket makes them take all its surplus food or none.
The charity is effectively made to operate as a supermarket waste manager, and is then left to deal with most of the excess waste it can’t use.
“I personally witnessed the walk-in fridge full daily, whilst excess food was stored in a parked van outside. During the Christmas period there were up to 50 crates full piled outside on the ground too. It was destructive to hope for any change”, said Rachel Haig, co-Director of Skipchen.
This second hand redistribution, disguised as a freebie and a resourceful solution to food poverty, is the source of many new problems.
Over the past eleven months, Skipchen intercepted over 25 tonnes of food before it reached the landfill. With five full time volunteers this equates to 14,600 hours per year. Staff costs on living wage would have be £109, 500 alone. This does not include the costs of buying and running a refrigerated van, insurance, storage, fuel and cooking facilities. This shows the levels of time and resource investment required if the current scale of food waste is to be dealt with effectively.