circular economy food waste

A creative use for Britain’s bread waste mountain

Despite the best efforts of campaigners over the past few years, food waste remains deeply entrenched in our food system. Reducing or eliminating waste is still the priority, but there will always be wastage in the system somewhere. That’s where we need to put our circular economy hats on and work out how to put the waste to productive use, and here’s a neat example.

A huge amount of bread baked in Britain goes to waste. According to research by Tesco, 34% of baguettes and 44% of white sliced bread is thrown away uneaten. WRAP works this out as 680,000 tonnes of waste a year, at a cost of over a billion pounds. Pretty stupid, and before anyone starts pointing the finger at the aforementioned Tesco, most of it happens at the household level. Because bread is cheap, people tend to buy more than they need instead of risking running out, even if they end up throwing lots away because they can’t through it in time. So the equivalent of 24 million slices of bread go in the bin every year.

These crazy statistics inspired Tristram Stuart and friends to create a new business, Toast Ale. People have been brewing beer from old bread for thousands of years, so they tested some recipes and developed a brand. They now collect unsold bread from bakeries and the crust ends from sandwich factories, and break them up into breadcrumbs to add to their beer recipe.


“Beer is an excellent way of preserving the calorific goodness of bread and significantly extending its life. We use at least one slice in every bottle” says the website. “Its replaces 40% of the malt typically used, and helps hop utilisation.” Even better, the profits from sales all go to Feedback, the anti-food waste charity. And they’ve open sourced the recipe too, so anybody can take it and get to work with surplus bread in their own town.

All very worthy, but of course the Toast Pale Ale has to taste good – so have a look at the website and see if there’s a pub near you that’s stocking it.

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