‘Madness On Stilts’: 100,000 Tonnes Of Supermarket Food Wasted For Biogas Subsidies

  • Date: 02/06/14
  • Ben Webster, The Times

Supermarkets are wasting thousands of tonnes of surplus food because subsidies for green energy make it cheaper to turn it into biogas than to donate it to hungry families, according to a leading charity.

The government is spending millions of pounds subsidising the construction and operation of anaerobic digestion plants that are converting up to 100,000 tonnes of edible food a year into biogas, FareShare said.

The subsidies mean that retailers and their suppliers can dispose of surplus food much more cheaply by sending it to these plants rather than delivering it to charities.

Frank Field, the former Labour welfare minister leading an inquiry into food poverty, said that the subsidy system was “madness on stilts”. He has called for it to be reformed to make donating surplus food the cheapest option for the industry.

“We live in a country where people are hungry yet we are using taxpayers’ money to destroy edible food,” he said.

Mr Field’s inquiry found that only 2 per cent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of surplus food produced annually by the industry was redistributed to charities.

FareShare, which redistributes 5,000 tonnes of surplus food a year to 1,300 charities and community projects, said that the subsidies for anaerobic digestion could be in breach of a directive that requires waste to be re-used where possible before being turned into energy.

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