Tesco has for the first time unveiled the true scale of how much food waste it produces, vowing to step up efforts to tackle the problem as leading economies pledged Monday to measure and reduce levels of global food waste.
The largest U.K. supermarket chain admitted that 65 percent of its bagged salad ends up in the garbage, while 40 percent of its apples and just less than half its bakery items, such as bread and pastries, are wasted.
In addition, the company wastes one-quarter of its grapes and one-fifth of all bananas, althrough both losses were in stores and customers discarding unwanted produce.
In total, Tesco said 28,500 tonnes of its food was wasted in the first half of this year alone. Given figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show the U.K. generated 15 million tonnes of food waste in 2011, Tesco's new data suggests it could account for just less than 0.4 percent of Britain's annual food waste.
Much of the blame for supermarket food waste centers on multi-buy offers, which can encourage shoppers to buy more food than they need. Tesco said 35 percent of wasted salad is binned at home, and one in 10 bananas bought by customers ends up in the trash.
The company said it is now launching several initiatives to curb food waste, including ending multi-buy deals on salad bags and developing a new temperature control system for cooling bananas.
"We've all got a responsibility to tackle food waste and there is no quick-fix single solution," said Matt Simister, commercial director of the company's food group, in a statement. "Families are wasting an estimated £700 a year and we want to help them keep that money in their pockets, rather than throwing it in the bin.
"We're playing our part, too, and making changes to our processes and in store. Ending multi-buy promotions on large packs of bagged salads is one way we can help, but this is just the start, and we'll be reviewing what else we can do. We're working with our suppliers to try to cut waste at all stages of the journey from farm to fork."
Tristram Stuart, founder of the Feeding the 5,000 food waste campaign, welcomed the move by Tesco and urged other supermarkets to follow suit. But he also called on supermarkets to tackle food waste further up the supply chain, for example by buying "ugly" fruit even when it does not meet the sector's established cosmetic standards.
He said figures suggested Tesco's annual food waste in its stores was four times more than the total amount of surplus food donated last year to food banks.
In related news, six countries -- including Denmark, China and Mexico -- are set to unveil a new initiative designed to measure global levels of food waste, as part of a broader drive to create more resource-efficient economies.
Speaking at the opening of the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen today, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that through the partnership the countries hoped to develop a protocol that would help slash food waste.
"If we can measure food waste we can then significantly reduce the waste itself," she said.