Swadlincote is an unlikely setting for a social experiment designed to help households cut food waste and save money, but the small South Derbyshire town beat off competition from around 200 entrants to win Sainsbury's Waste Less Save More competition. The challenge is considerable the UK produces 15 millions tonnes of food waste annually of which 7 million tonnes come from households. The estimated retail value of this waste is a staggering £7.5 billion.
To try and change these alarming statistics Swadlincote will be the focus for a £1 million investment from Sainsbury's testing the latest thinking from around the world to help households tackle food waste. Already independent researchers have undertaken a detailed analysis of what residents are throwing in the bins. Accurate and thorough evaluation is at the core of the approach ensuring lessons - good and bad - are gathered and shared.
Swadlincote was selected because of the strength of community commitment and the creativity of ideas that shone through in their application. A significant local grants fund is being established providing essential finance to allow the community to implement their ideas and assess impact. These are likely to range from putting a new community fridge into the local Food Bank through to more ambitious street challenges.
Making it convenient and easy for shoppers to cut food waste is a golden thread running through the project. We are already helping local residents to plan their weekly meals giving them a nutritious and varied diet whilst ensuring their shop doesn't result in half bags of salad or remnants of vegetables sitting forlornly in the fridge. This research is designed to lead to a 'Zero Food Waste' app making it easier for households across the UK to be smarter shoppers.
New collaborations will be developed bringing together companies that are at the cutting edge of new technologies designed to reduce food waste. Will having a camera in your fridge linked to your phone help you stop buying food that you don't need? Will smarter fridge technology that ensures you store food properly make food last longer? Both questions will be answered in the spring with the first community exploration of the impact of a new generation of fridge technology.
Testing the impact new technologies will be a key feature. Sainsbury's will be using Swadlincote to explore whether different types of packaging can help households make food last longer. New apps such as that created by Olio will be tested to see if they can help households share food that would have been wasted with others in their community.
The Swadlincote community was clear that a strong educational strand should be an essential component of the campaign. Working with the community we will seek to implement ideas generated from within the local schools through to campaigns that have proven to be successful elsewhere.
Swadlincote will throw up some fascinating results and invaluable data, but no matter how successful the schemes they will have minimal impact on the national picture unless they are replicated in communities throughout the UK. Sainsbury's is committed to ensuring that this replication happens. Waste Less Save More is a £10 million commitment over a five year period. Subsequent years will ensure that the best bits from Swadlincote are openly shared and introduced in other areas.
There is clearly a huge national appetite to take on successful campaigns - many of the communities that originally applied for the original Waste Less Save More prize have asked to stay involved and like ourselves will be keen to see what approaches prove successful in Swadlincote.
The Swadlincote adventure is launched on Wednesday 27th January and the year ahead promises to be intriguing. If all goes well it could be the Derbyshire town does revolutionise the way the UK address food waste.