The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.
The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.
Waitrose scored an F rating overall and was the worst performing supermarket of the 10 assessed in the report. This was mainly due to the absence of public data on food waste, poor quantities of redistributed food in comparison to other supermarkets, limited work with suppliers to reduce food waste and the fact that there was no programme in place for sending permissable food surplus to animal feed at the time of publication.
On reducing and preventing surplus food, Waitrose was found to have implemented 4 of the 20 key indicators, however had not released any publicly available information on food waste at the time of publishing.
The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. Waitrose was found to have implemented 2 of the 4 key indicators and scored 1 out of 3 available points for the quantity of food redistributed, which amounted to £1,445,088 worth at the time of publishing. Waitrose’s website also stated that 21,949kg (22 tonnes) of food was donated to FareShare in 2016.
The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Waitrose did not score any points under this criteria and was not found to be engaging in this activity. Feedback observed that Waitrose’s website failed to include sending food surplus to animal feed, stating the next best use after redistribution is Anaerobic Digestion (AD). This was considered by Feedback to be a ‘distortion’ of the recycling stage of the hierarchy which is enshrined in the UK Waste Regulations (2011).
The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. In 2014, to a House of Lords enquiry into food waste, Waitrose stated that ‘there is a clear temptation, on economic grounds, to prioritise energy recovery over redistribution’. Waitrose was recognised for fulfilling 1 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria due to its zero waste to landfill commitment.
The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As Waitrose was one of the lowest scoring in this report, it lost half a mark under Climate Change.