How we calculate our food waste figures (UK)

Scope and Definitions

The methodology outlined below is used to calculate the total tonnes of food wasted in our UK operations in the full Tesco financial year 2017/18. The information provided is in conformance with the Food Loss and Waste Accounting Standard (FLW Standard).(1)


The published figure represents the food wasted in our full financial year 2017/2018. This year, this includes 52 weeks, from 26th February 2017 to 24th February 2018 inclusive.

Store Location and Type

The scope of this calculation covers food waste arising only from our depots and stores in the UK. Food waste arising in customer restaurants and staff canteens in our stores and depots are out of scope, as is any food waste arising in operations owned by Tesco, upstream in the supply chain, such as haulage wastage and committed crop wastage.

The calculation only covers our operations. Therefore, waste arising at our suppliers’ sites and from third party counters in Tesco stores is not included.

Food Waste Definition

Material types: The scope of the calculation includes food waste and associated inedible parts.

Destinations: The definition of food waste is based on that of EU FUSIONS: “Food waste is any food, and inedible parts of food, removed from the food supply chain to be recovered or disposed (including composed, crops ploughed in/not harvested, anaerobic digestion, bio-energy production, co-generation, incineration, disposal to sewer, landfill or discarded to sea)”.

Therefore, bakery products sent to animal feed are EXCLUDED from the total waste tonnage. Food donated to FareShare or directly to charities via Community Food Connection programme is not considered to be food waste. Packaging waste is excluded.

This differs from the definition of food waste adopted in previous years which included all food that was diverted from the human food chain (for example to animal feed). Previous years have been rebaselined accordingly (see below).

Food Categories

All food categories sold at Tesco are included in the scope (2).

During the calculations, all non-food items are removed from our waste data. The following product products are out of scope and therefore excluded from the calculations:

  • All products within Baby, Beauty & Toiletries, and Healthcare, Optician & Pharmacy categories except baby food and nutritional fitness food.
  • All products in the Household & Petcare category except food items.
  • All petcare and incense products in the Grocery category.
  • Plants and flowers in the Produce category.
  • Store transfers were also excluded.
  • Some individual products were excluded in other categories where they were clearly not food, for example: books, glassware.


Other Exclusions

During FY 2014/15 we outsourced the production of some bakery products to Euphorium Bakery. The production waste arising at suppliers’ sites is not in scope, therefore food waste generated at the Euphorium site is not included in our waste figures.

Whilst it was not possible to identify waste that had been displaced from stores to the Euphorium production plant, we disclosed production waste arising at Euphorium Bakeries to enable a more complete comparison of the data.

Financial year Euphorium Production Waste (tonnes)
14/15 980
15/16 1,160

Following the sale of Euphorium, some of this production is now moving back in stores. We estimate that this waste amounts to less than 0.1% of our total annual waste and therefore does not require a restatement of figures previously published.

Euphorium Bakery also owned 40 bakeries in our stores. In-store waste previously arsing at these bakeries was out of scope given third party ownership. As these move under our control, waste generated as part of this activity will be recorded along with all other store waste.

Data Sources

In order to calculate the amount of food wasted each year we record the following data in our stores and depots.

Retail waste: This dataset contains the number of retail units wasted and the total value (£) of such waste per item, split by waste type –

  • DAM waste: Products that are damaged in store, whether on the shop floor or in storage. This also includes waste arising from customer returns and from clearance events.
  • OOC waste: Products that exceed the ‘Best before’ or ‘Use by’ date and can no longer be sold.
  • Product Write Off waste: Products that are not suitable for sale. 
  • Exceptional events waste: Products that are damaged during an exceptional event. For example, this waste could be caused by a fridge breakdown or flood.

Depot waste: This dataset contains the number of depot units wasted and the total value (£) of such waste per item. Depot units differ from retail units as these contain several retail units (for example a pallet or a carton of individual packs). The number of retail units per depot unit is also provided in the dataset and is used to calculate the total retail units per item.

Depot waste figures are reported as a mixture of positive and negative totals. Negative figures are ‘losses’, i.e. waste. Positive figures are single items that have been retrieved from wasted packs (e.g. individual cartons retrieved from a broken case). The total waste per item is the sum of losses and gains multiplied by minus one, to align these data with other datasets.

Product data: This dataset contains the contents weight and the packaged weight per item. Note that where duplicates are found, a conservative estimate is taken and the highest weight is used.

Self-scan data: This dataset contains the packaged weight of items as measured in store self-scan tills. These data are used where product data from the source above are not available. Note that where duplicates are found, a conservative estimate is taken and the highest weight is used. Given these data include packaging, these are only used for items where a more suitable weight is not available and where the weight of packaging is not considered to be significant.

Bakery Weights data: This dataset contains the weight per item for bakery products that do not have a weight assigned in the product weight data. The product specification weight is provided by our bakery team.

Community Food Connection (CFC) Donations data: This dataset contains the number of units and value of food donated to charities through our Community Food Connection programme. These donations are also recorded as part of the OOC waste detailed above.

Other charity data: FareShare and Company Shop provide data for donations that are not included under our CFC programme. This includes donations from our depots and stores. Donations from depot include oversupply and reject food owned by suppliers, where the donation is facilitated by Tesco. These are included in the donations figure and in the total surplus figures.

Colleague Shop: This dataset contains the number of units and value of food given to colleagues through our Community Shop programme. These are also recorded as part of the sales data detailed above.


Animal Feed tonnage: The tonnage of bakery surplus diverted to animal feed. These data are provided by SugaRich, our animal feed partner.



The bullet points below explain how we have calculated our total food waste tonnage for the full year 2017/18:

  • Included in the scope of our calculation is any food that has not been sold in our stores because it is past its best before or use by date, has been damaged, withdrawn from the market or de-ranged. The non-food categories mentioned above are removed at this stage.
  • The number of units wasted per item is converted into a weight measured in tonnes by multiplying the number of units wasted by the per unit weight*.
  • We perform a ‘bottom up’ calculation from the waste tonnages for individual products (e.g. Gala Apples), to the commercial food category (e.g. Produce), to our entire UK operations.
  • Waste tonnages are added to obtain totals by category and for our entire UK operations.
  • We used this calculation method for 93% of the waste products (by weight) from our own operations – in our depots and within our stores.
  • The remaining 7% of waste by weight (equivalent to 12% of total units wasted) occurs in products for which a weight is not available (this could include items such as baguettes in our bakery or food in our deli counters) or where the weight provided is not correct.
  • The following steps are taken to select the best estimate for product contents weights:
  1. Product content weights are checked category by category and are marked as requiring adjustment where the content weight is missing or if it is high or low compared to the category average.
  2. If an adjustment is required, packaged weights are selected where available and if appropriate per expert judgement.
  3. For all items with no packaged weight data available, items are checked on a sub-category basis and either the category or sub-category average is used based on expert judgement.
  4. For the Bakery category, primary data collection was necessary to obtain average weights for several sub-groups.

To minimise the risk associated with such estimates, categories with the largest number of waste items are prioritised and checked in more detail as these have the greatest impact on the total waste.

In addition, within each category, the products with the highest number of wasted units are checked manually one-by-one as these can also have a significant impact on the total waste tonnage. Items using self-scan weights are also checked to ensure that items with heavy packaging are not allocated these weights, for example wine bottles.

  • Where charity donations are included in our waste records we subtract the donated tonnage from our food waste figure as these items are donated for human consumption.
  • Finally, the tonnage of bakery surplus diverted to animal feed is subtracted from the figure calculated as this is not food waste.

* It is assumed that 1 L is equivalent to 1 Kg where product content weights are listed as volumes.

Food waste intensity figures

In the annual report, we reported 0.5% of food was wasted in our UK operations. This figure represents our food waste per food sales by weight. The sales weight is measured using the same method for food waste: the number of units sold is multiplied by the same per unit weight used in the calculation described above. Note that in previous years this intensity was measured by number of units rather than by weight.

Restatement of food waste figures

We have recalculated our total food waste tonnage for financial years 13/14, 14/15, 15/16 to account for:

  • A change in the definition of food waste that now excludes food diverted to animal feed
  • Improved weight data for bakery items becoming available
  • Additional retail waste data becoming available (product write offs, fridge breakdowns and out of scope third party counters)
Financial year  Total Food Waste (tonnes) Food waste per sales (by weight)
FY13/14 48,182 0.5%
FY14/15 42,172 0.4%
FY15/16 42,680 0.4%


Reporting against our target

In 2016 year we made a commitment that no food that is safe for human consumption will go to waste from our UK retail operations by the end of February 2018. The waterfall chart presented in the annual report illustrates how we are tracking against this target. This shows the breakdown for our food surplus safe for human consumption in FY 17/18.

  1. Donated: This includes all food donated to charities as part of our Community Food Connection programme as well as from stores and our depots.
  2. Colleague Shop: This includes all food offered to colleagues as part of our Colleague Shop programme.
  3. Animal Feed: This section shows the amount of food safe for human consumption that was sent to animal feed. Note that this figure excludes bakery surplus that was damaged or not safe to donate but was also sent to animal feed.
  4. Disposal: This is food that is safe to donate, but was not sent to animal feed or donated. This is the number we use to measure our progress against our target. The majority of food that is not donated is sent to Anaerobic Digestion with the remainder sent to incineration with energy recovery.

Surplus food that is not safe for human consumption is not included in waterfall chart. This includes all food waste that occurs due to damages or product write offs, and products that cannot be donated by law or because of food safety issues.

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