We have been supporting Sainsbury’s in the creation and delivery of Waste less, Save more: a five year, £10 million investment to cut food waste in the UK. The scheme was launched in 2015 leading to the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote winning a national competition to become a test bed for activity, with £1 million invested to cut food waste over the year ahead. 

The trial aims to cut the town’s food waste by half and waste analysis for the whole town took place in January, giving an accurate baseline figure against which achievements will be measured. We will be paying close attention to the trial and will share the results, but in the meantime, what is being tested and what can we hope to learn?

1) Can community campaigns shift behaviour?

Swadlincote was chosen as the trial town because of the level of community engagement - can this be used to significantly cut food waste? Already we are seeing communities pull together to tackle the issues as one. For example, a team of eight local Food Saver Champions have recently been recruited to deliver the Waste less, Save more message directly to every household and community group in Swadlincote handing out bin stickers, recipe guidance and top tips.

Elsewhere a group of 50 households are receiving more structured support, including guidance from chefs, money to invest in products that will help them store food better, cooking training and on-going support though a closed Facebook group.

We are closely monitoring the results of the trials, but given that the issue of food waste affects us all, we believe an integrated approach will be key to tackling the problem.

2) What difference can targeted campaigns make?

We are using the trial to measure a range of initiatives, from those that are tailored to individuals to those that target wider groups, and will be looking to see which are most affective. To help gauge this, we have planned industry days which will be delivered with some of the largest employers in the area - taking the message to their employees using games, visual communications and top tips.

A mobile display will also target local community events including cooking demonstrations and take-home packs.

3) How receptive are younger audiences?

While food waste affects us all, it is most noted by those who do the shopping or cooking in the household. But by encouraging a behavioural change at a young age, could we see more significant results in the future?

An education programme is being delivered to primary schools in the town including waste audits, a visit to the local Sainsbury’s and take home messages. A more intensive programme will be delivered in a secondary school including the installation of smart bins to measure food waste in the school canteen.

4) Can technology save the day?

What impact can new technology have? 20 households have been given new smart fridges by Bosch. These fridges contain cameras linked to their mobile phones enabling them to see what is in the fridge when they go shopping, helping reduce the amount of items that are accidentally bought in duplicate. An on-line support group has been established to enable them to share ideas and ask questions.

A local rep has been recruited to promote Olio the food sharing app helping people easily share food that would otherwise have been wasted.

On a much simpler level 15,000 fridge thermometers have been distributed across the town allowing residents to check that their fridge is working properly keeping food fresher for longer.

5) What is the role of a retailer?

Sainsbury’s recognises that it has an integral role in cutting food waste in the town. At the simplest level this involves ensuring that the food waste message is delivered at the store and that residents are given easy access to the tips and tools they need. The retailer will also roll out some wider-reaching initiatives in the months ahead.

The second analysis of the town’s bins will take place in January giving us an indication of the overall impact of the scheme. This will be backed up by more detailed evidence about the effectiveness of each intervention. Lessons will be shared and Sainsbury’s will be using the remainder of their investment to spread the key learnings more widely across the country, so keep your eyes peeled for the results.