supermarkets shelves

(Nathália Rosa, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • A Berlin store sells expired, mislabelled and oddly shaped food at heavily discounted prices.
  • Farms, wholesalers and retailers donate or sell their surplus food to the store.
  • The store prevented 2,000 tonnes of food waste in a single year.

Have you ever wondered what stores do with food that’s out of date, oddly shaped or too unappealing to sell?

One German supermarket is waging war on food waste by selling items rejected by other shops.

 

Berlin’s SirPlus grocery store sells cans and packets of food close to or past their expiry date, wrongly labelled jars and misshapen fruit and vegetables, all at discounts of up to 80%.

As well as visiting the store, customers can subscribe online to receive deliveries of boxes containing a random assortment of products.

The store works in close partnership with the food industry, receiving surplus or unwanted products from farmers, logistics companies, wholesalers and retailers.

Suppliers either donate their waste or earn additional income by selling it, eliminating the need to pay disposal fees to get rid of it.

When the store’s warehouse is full, food that can’t be accommodated is offered free to local charities and good causes.

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Sharing ist caring! 🥰 . Seitdem Raphael @foodsharing.de_offiziell mit ins Leben gerufen hat, besteht eine tiefe Bindung zwischen SIRPLUS und foodsharing. Deshalb sind wir umso stolzer, foodsharing heute als unseren Partner vorzustellen. 🤝😊 . Du fragst Dich inwiefern SIRPLUS und foodsharing zusammenarbeiten? Besteht denn gar keine Konkurrenz? –> Auf gar keinen Fall! ‍‍🙅‍♀️🙅‍♂️ . Bei 10 Millionen Tonnen vermeidbarem Lebensmittelmüll, kämpfen wir alle gemeinsam gegen diese Verschwendung an! 🍅🥝 . SIRPLUS und foodsharing setzen an unterschiedlichen Punkten der Wertschöpfungskette an. Während SIRPLUS bei Großhändlern und Produzenten Lebensmittel rettet, konzentriert sich foodsharing auf kleinere Betriebe wie Bäckereien, Marktstände und Supermärkte. Dabei gilt zu jeder Zeit das Tafel First Prinzip! ☝️😎 . Eine weitere Zusammenarbeit besteht darin, dass foodsharing auch bei uns, SIRPLUS, überschüssige Lebensmittel abholt. Leider kommt es auch bei uns dazu, dass wir Lebensmittel nicht verkaufen können, aufgrund zu vieler Macken oder eines zu kurz bevorstehenden Verfallsdatums.😲😥 . Dementsprechend sind wir umso glücklicher, dass diese Lebensmittel durch die Abholung von ehrenamtlichen Retterherzen von foodsharing trotzdem im Kreislauf bleiben. 🤗💚 . Falls Du erfahren möchtest, wie so eine Abholung abläuft oder wie auch Du 🦸‍ein*e foodsaver*in 🦸‍ werden kannst, dann schau auf unserem Blog vorbei www.sirplus.de/blogs/news 🤓 . #sirplus #foodsharing #lebensmittelretten #nowaste #nofoodwaste #partner #retterherzen

A post shared by SIRPLUS ❤️ (@sirplus.de) on

No place for waste

Food items can be rejected by other supermarkets or suppliers for many reasons, including pre-packed goods that are wrongly labelled or fresh fruit and vegetables that have grown at odd angles or are visually unappealing.

Before reaching the store’s shelves, the food items are carefully inspected to ensure everything is safe to eat. If there is any doubt, a laboratory is called in.

Expired items that are fit to consume can be legally sold in Germany, provided customers are informed they are out of date. This policy helps the store prevent about 2,000 tonnes of food waste a year, which represents a small but significant step towards tackling the growing global problem of what to do with our surplus food.

food agriculture waste shopping shop super market commerce selling trade trading fruit veg vegetable vegetables fruits mislabeled germany sirplus grocery groceries store stores expired expiration meat perishables scheme waste management climate change sustainability freeganism freegan  waste not want not change
How much food ends up as waste.
Image: Statista

As the chart shows, around 14% of all agricultural products are lost before reaching supermarket shelves. Poor processing, packaging, storage or logistics can lead to severe losses or restrict shelf life, although significant wastage also occurs once food reaches stores and households.

In 2011, the United Nations estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year.

While the world wastes around one-third of the food it produces, figures show more than 820 million people go hungry.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals set a target of reducing global food wast by half at the retail and consumer level by 2030, as well as cutting food losses from production and supply chains.

Everyone has a part to play in meeting these goals, from farmers to households.

The Berlin initiative is making a difference by helping to change attitudes about surplus food, cutting existing waste levels and raising awareness of the problem.

The store could provide a model for other cities in Germany and around the world to follow, with backing from policymakers to address food waste regulations.