Food revolution: the UK’s first waste supermarket has opened

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Waste not want not. We’ve heard the phrase our entire lives, but how many of us actually live by it?

Let’s see… hand’s up if you do one or more of these things:

- Find vegetables festering in your fridge at the end of the week, every week
- Order too much at restaurants and don’t get a doggy bag
- Scrape your leftovers into the bin

If you do, you’re in the majority in the West – but the times they are a changin’ and the age of excess is coming to an end, as we enter a new – and vital – age of awareness. That there simply isn’t enough food in the world, that there are actual food banks in the UK, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and that it’s pretty unacceptable.

As part of this food revolution, we’ve seen Deliveroo offer cheaper prices on food that would otherwise be wasted, and a growing trend for leftovers.

Now, the UK has opened the first food waste supermarket.  

food waste

Inside the warehouse. Image: The Real Junk Food Project

Why? Because, on average, UK supermarkets throw away 115,000 tonnes of food every year – food that could be eaten.

Instead of allowing this needless waste, The Real Junk Food Project has opened its first warehouse in Leeds, so disadvantaged people can get food that would otherwise have been chucked.

The store, based in a warehouse in the Grangefield Industrial Estate in Pudsey, works with supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Ocado, as well as with local food banks and cafes, collecting their perfectly good waste food. The project receives on average between two and 10 tonnes of food every day.

Project founder, Adam Smith, explains to the BBC that usually they donate the surplus food to schools – where it is used to feed 12,000 children a week - but that “over the summer we ended up with all this surplus and we wondered how we would get rid of it.”

“We moved it to one part of the warehouse, put a notice up on social media asking people to come and get it, and it just went mad,” he says.

food waste supermarket

The Real Junk Food Project

The supermaket runs by telling people to “pay what they feel” for the goods, whether that be in money or even skills. The project has already helped desperate families feed their children.

On the groups website, they explain how they ensure the food is safe, stating:

“We intercept food that is past its expiration date and use our own judgement on whether we believe the food is fit for human consumption or not, by smelling it, tasting it and visually inspecting it. We do not turn food away simply because it has ‘expired’, but we will never serve food that we believe is unfit for human consumption.”

Smith says the idea came to him three years ago when a café opened in Armley that offered meals produced from waste food.

The Real Junk Food Project then opened their own food stalls selling waste food in cafes.

Now, the project is hoping to open a waste food warehouse in every UK city.