Waste Not Want Not: Copenhagen Supermarket Offers Triple Benefit
Would you make a pizza with flour past its expiry date? Use canned tomato sauce with a torn label? Add a wrinkly tomato on top? What if by doing so, you not only save money on your grocery bill but also help reduce food waste and contribute to fighting hunger in developing countries?
That’s the premise behind Wefood – Denmark’s first “social surplus” supermarket, which opened in Copenhagen in February this year. Founded by humanitarian NGO DanChurchAid, Wefood collects food that’s past its best-before date or might not be ‘supermarket beautiful’ and sells it, with all profits going to help the hungry in Asia and Africa.
Volunteers from DanChurchAid collect food (otherwise destined for the trash) from 35 retailers around Copenhagen, for retail at the Wefood store at half price. The reduced grocery bill appeals to students, families on a budget and also shoppers bent on buying with a mission. The money raised is, in turn, used to fund agricultural projects in the developing world, such as introducing drought-and-disease-resistant crops to farmers in Malawi.
We wanted to put a focus on food waste in developed countries and, at the same time, try to help with food needs in developing countries, the general secretary for DanChurchAid, Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen tells NMagazine.
Each year, over 88 million tonnes of food is wasted in the EU because it is deemed “ugly”, damaged (torn label or slightly dented tins) or it is nearing its sell-by date. But the Danes are committed to stem their contribution to the environmental impact of food waste - over a recent five-year period, they have managed to reduce the amount of food landing in the garbage by 25 percent (a reduction of roughly 35 pounds per person per year). And, Denmark is not the only country focused on the issue – a law passed in February prohibits French supermarkets from destroying unsold food.
Since its opening, Wefood has been a huge success. Long lines of eager customers stretch out of the door, and produce seems out everyday – despite the strange offerings. ”Food waste is an issue that affects the whole population,” continues Qvist-Sørensen. “We want to attract people who want to save money and do something for the environment too.”
Intermarché, France – In 2014, French Supermarket chain Intermarché launched its Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign to celebrate “ugly” produce that is often considered unfit for consumption. The result? Over 1.2 tonnes sold at each store in just two days and supermarket traffic increased by 24 percent.
Froodly, Finland - Finnish “food rescue” app Froodly shows users about-to-expire supermarket produce for discounts up to 70 percent. Contributors upload pictures and locations of discounted products, and in exchange they earn free rewards like coffee.
Toast Ale, UK – Ever wondered what happened to the ends of bread loaves? So did food activist Tristram Stuart. Earlier this year, he founded Toast Ale, the first British beer to be made with surplus bread from bakeries that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
Know of other similar projects? Email firstname.lastname@example.org: NMagazine