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 for the full Tesco financial year 2018/19. 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 2018/2019. This year, this includes 52 weeks, from 25th February 2018 to 23rd February 2019 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

The food waste definition used by Tesco is aligned with that of the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap as well as that adopted by Champions 12.3.

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

Destinations: While multiple destinations fall under the definition of “food waste” for Tesco UK, food waste only goes to Anaerobic Digestion and Incineration/controlled combustion (with energy recovery). Zero food waste goes to landfill.

This definition excludes any material that is sent for redistribution to people, animal feed or, conversion into industrial products (collectively referred to as ‘food surplus’). 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.

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 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 pet care 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.

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. For example, the supplier has sent a request to withdraw the product as it is not safe for consumption.
  • 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 and are subtracted from these to avoid double counting.

Other charity data: FareShare and Company Shop provide data for donations that are not included under our CFC programme. This includes donations from our ambient and fresh depots. 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. Some donations are also recorded as waste in our depots, this may result in an overstatement of our waste figures.

Colleague Shop: This dataset contains the number of units and value of food given to colleagues through our colleague Shop programme. At the beginning of FY18/19 these were recorded as part of our sales data and were therefore subtracted from the sales. At the end of the year these are also recorded as part of the OOC waste detailed above and are subtracted from these to avoid double counting.

Animal Feed tonnage: The tonnage of bakery and produce surplus diverted to animal feed. These data are provided by SugaRich and RSR respectively, our animal feed partners.


The bullet points below explain how we have calculated our total food waste tonnage for the full year 2018/19:

  • 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*. Weights are selected as available based on the following hierarchy:
    1. Bakery weights
    2. Product weights
    3. Self-scan weights
  • 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 92% of the waste products (by weight) from our own operations – in our depots and within our stores.
  • The remaining 8% of waste by weight (equivalent to 11% 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.
  • Finally, the tonnage of bakery and produce 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 0.45% 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.

Reporting against our target 

Our target is that no food that is safe for human consumption is wasted in our UK business. Over the last two years, as a result of our efforts, and in partnership with charities, we have reached 81% of this target. This is based on the four-week period between weeks 49 and 52 of the Tesco financial year 2018/19. The percentage is calculated by dividing the total tonnage of food safe for human consumption that is redistributed to charity, colleague shop or animal feed over the total food surplus safe for human consumption.

Total food surplus safe for human consumption includes the following:

Donated: This includes food donated to charities as part of our Community Food Connection programme as well as from stores and our depots.

  1. Colleague Shop: This includes food offered to colleagues as part of our Colleague Shop programme and that is also suitable for donations to charity.
  2. Animal Feed: This shows the amount of food safe for human consumption that was sent to animal feed. Note that this figure excludes bakery and produce surplus that was damaged or not safe to donate but was also sent to animal feed.
  3. Disposal: This is food that is safe to donate but was not sent to animal feed or donated. The majority of food that is not donated is sent to Anaerobic Digestion with the remainder sent to incineration with energy recovery.

Food that is damaged or fresh food that cannot be frozen, is excluded from the scope of our target as we are unable to donate it to charities, as well as food that cannot legally be donated (baby food and alcohol). Food that cannot be frozen is defined as products that do not have freezing instructions on their label. Waste arising from product withdrawals and fridge breakdowns is also excluded as it is typically not safe for consumption.

[1] More information available here.

[2] United Nations Central Production Classifications 2.1 Divisions 21 – 24