On the second day of Christmas…look what Waitrose gave to us all

When you work really, really hard on behalf of those struggling to stretch low incomes to cover their bills and who are very often not just in Fuel Poverty, but also seriously vulnerable, this particular scene is difficult to watch. Rows and rows of containers full of milk being poured down the sink. From every single one of us I would just like to say thank you Waitrose…

Milk waste

This is even more difficult to take given we are in Christmas week and there are any number of homeless centres putting on extra dinners and food banks literally reaching beyond their capacity, all in the name of protecting the vulnerable. It doesn’t matter any which way you, I or any executive from the perpetrator of this crime look at this, there is no doubt it is wrong. I mean it is milk. Milk always has a very long date on it. So it is hardly as if the ‘sell by’ date crept up on them and shouted “surprise” is it?

I have been writing about such corporate incompetence for over a decade and it still amazes me that this sort of disconnected thinking still goes on, seemingly unabated. Take just a quick look at the Waitrose website and you will find that “being a ‘force for good’ in the community has always been part of the Partnership’s vision” and that they “make every effort to reduce impact on the environment and to promote good environmental practice”. Scary isn’t it that anybody would read that stuff and buy into it. How does “the Partnership’s vision” of being so conscious of community and environment fit with this type of obscene waste? You would like to think this is an isolated case, but no sadly not. Even though this is one tiny store it throws away a skip full of food on a regular basis. Feast your eyes on this:

freegan freegan 2

Huge bin liners full of food – perfectly edible food – thrown away one night recently at the same store. I don’t make a habit of routing through bins – neither am I regular ‘freegan’ – but I saw this being taken from the store and knew where it was going. My curiosity got the better of me and I had to go and find it so I could actually say I have seen this waste at first hand. I understand this is not an example of big night’s throw outs! Those people that work there, make none of the buying decisions, and yet have to do all the throwing away, tell me that it makes them want to cry. The man pouring that milk away was a picture of embarrassed frustration.

How is this allowed to happen in 2014? We are bombarded constantly with so many stories about the poverty around us, the shortage of food across the planet, the lack of space in our landfill and on and on…and yet this supposed leader of good corporate citizenship shows such a clear lack of vision in protecting the very community in which it exists.

Oh I am very aware that this level of obscene waste is rife across every one of our supermarkets, although I believe it was Tescos telling us last month that it was our fault for so much food waste! Likewise, each of them share this level of hollow hypocrisy written in their Corporate Social Responsibility reports. So I make this offer to any one or all of them that we are here to help. CBL connects and collaborates across a huge number of communities and as Community Buying continues to grow rapidly we inevitably bring the power of the group to this debate. What happens then is our members will get involved and will create many opportunities to hold these organisations to account to stop this appalling waste of our precious resources. Which means as we continue to fight hard to tackle Fuel Poverty, bringing solutions where others only see challenges, we will be the perfect partner for the supermarkets to find the communities that should be receiving this food, rather than it shamefully heading directly into landfill.