While I was researching food waste for this Tesco article, I came across unsurprising data. Food waste is running rampart throughout the developed world, with retailers throwing away massive quantities of food – especially “ugly” vegetables. Consumers are often just as careless. But one country was faring surprisingly well: Denmark. The Scandinavian country managed to reduce all its food waste waste by 25% while also developing a new business model.

“Ugly” food like this gets a second chance. Image credits: Stacy Spensley / Flickr

A supermarket called Wefood opened up, selling products 40-60% cheaper than regular supermakets. They’ve made quite a name for themselves by only selling food waste. They’ve been so successful that they’re about to open another shop in Aarhus, additional to the one they have in Copenhagen. Per Bjerre from the NGO behind the market, Folkekirkens Nødhjælp, said:

“WeFood is the first supermarket of its kind in Denmark and perhaps the world as it is not just aimed at low-income shoppers but anyone who is concerned about the amount of food waste produced in this country.”

Wefood is hoping to help reduce the 700,000 tonnes of food waste Denmark produces every year, but that’s not all Denmark is doing — not even close. Denmark has more initiatives against food waste in Europe than any other state: everything from national awareness campaigns to grassroots movements and sustainable initiatives on all sides of society. But Welfare is another example of how Danes are fighting food waste.

“Everyone pays 20 kroner (less than $3) for a reusable bag to fill with whatever they like,” says Bettina Bach, 31, of Bo Welfare, a social housing project in the Danish city of Horsens that runs the food waste pop-up shop.

“We collect fruit and vegetables from local supermarkets to sell twice a week. It may be that the packaging’s damaged or it’s nearing its best before date, but it’s still good food – so we thought, why let it go to waste?”

Just up the road from Bo Welfare, Horsens’ Visionary Kitchen is a place where volunteers prepare food that’s reached its ‘sell-by date’ and have been donated by shops. Startup Too Good To Go tackles waste from Danes’ favourite weekend institution: the all you can eat buffet. An app provides customers with the closing times and offers what’s left for knockdown prices. Numerous other start-ups and social initiatives have popped up, all playing their part towards the greater cause.

It’s important to note that this isn’t really costing anyone any money — on the contrary, it’s providing a lot of cheap food to people which would otherwise go to waste. Everyone wins, and one can only wonder why more countries aren’t doing this.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Estimate my solar savings!