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LONDON: Marks & Spencer (M&S) has launched a UK surplus food redistribution scheme that will connect all its stores with local food charities in a bid to reduce food waste 20 percent by 2020. M&S says it will be the first major retailer to provide live updates on the number of tonnes of surplus food redistributed.

According to a report by the Britain's Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the world produces about four billion tonnes of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it estimates that 1.2–2 billion tonnes of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.

In the initial launch phase, 150 of M&S's biggest stores will be ready to redistribute surplus food by December 2015, followed by all M&S's owned stores by the following Spring.

Neighbourly 1Redistributed food will include products nearing their expiry date including fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes and groceries. Any surplus left over will go to anaerobic digestion that turns food waste into electricity – some of which is bought back to power M&S stores – with nothing going to landfill.

M&S is working in partnership with the social network Neighbourly (right) to provide a simple process for food charities to register and receive food from a local M&S store. The company said managing the scheme through a single platform removes some of the logistical barriers to redistribution, including ensuring that all those registered have the correct charity and food hygiene credentials in place.

The Neighbourly site will also enable M&S to centrally monitor what products are surplus and how they can be reduced.

Commenting on the launch Louise Nicholls, head of Responsible Sourcing, Packaging & Plan A at M&S said: "Our key priority is to reduce food waste whilst ensuring that, where there is food surplus, we put it to the best possible use. This is the first nationwide redistribution scheme to provide an innovative, practical solution to surplus food redistribution by building local connections, enabling all our stores to link with local food projects and help support their communities."

Nick Davies, founder of Neighbourly added: "Putting food resources to the best possible use is a huge aspect of creating a sustainable planet. At Neighbourly we are proud to work with pioneering businesses like M&S to make that a reality. Whether it means being smarter about how much we produce or order, how we share any surplus, or if necessary how we productively recycle any waste, Neighbourly is committed to help businesses find the best possible solution."

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