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This German supermarket’s shelves are filled with food other stores won’t sell

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Have you ever wondered what stores do with food that’s out of date, oddly shaped or too unappealing to sell?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

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Expired items that are fit to consume can be legally sold in Germany, provided customers are informed they are out of date.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.

Written by Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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