Coffee chain Starbucks has teamed up with Feed America and the Food Donation Connection, announcing that from now on it will donate 100 per cent of unused food from its 7,600 stores in the US to charity. It is estimated that this move will help to provide 5 million meals in the first year alone.
Only 60 per cent of food produced in the US is ever actually consumed. Annual food waste costs the US around $165 billion each year; the cost of disposing of unused food is a whopping $70 million.
Across the pond in Europe, laws have been passed to ensure that supermarkets do their utmost to keep food waste to a minimum. France became the first country to pass legislation banning supermarkets from throwing away food, instead requiring them to donate it to food banks. Italy has recently followed suit, offering business incentives to shops and restaurants.
“We are making it more convenient for companies to donate than to waste,” says Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina. “We currently recover 550 million tonnes of excess food each year but we want to arrive at one billion in 2016.”
And in the UK, supermarket giant Tesco has been trialling a food donation programme in partnership with FareShare at 14 of its locations, which it now plans to roll out across all 6,800 stores by the end of 2017.
In the US, however, fighting food waste is a more complex issue, as it is regulated at a local, state and federal level. But the good news is that a number of corporations are already taking steps to reduce their own waste, such as Walmart’s switch to standardised “use by” labels which mean consumers are less likely to throw away perfectly good food. An enormously popular brand like Starbucks embracing this movement will surely encourage other companies and consumers to look at how they manage food waste.
“There is no-one in this business who wants to see food go to waste,” says David Fikes, VP of the Food Marketing Institute. “It’s bad for business, bad for the economy and bad for the environment. Everyone in this industry would like to see food waste reduced if not completely eradicated.”