Waste Not, Want Not

Blog originally written for the Centre for Alternative Technology’s online blog and Clean Slate publication:

In the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth, an innovative environmental group has been formed to tackle food waste. CAT graduate Chris Woodfield introduces Aber Food Surplus.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year – that’s around one-third of the total food produced globally. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that if food waste was a country it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA . It’s a huge problem – but what can we do about it?

Founded in March 2017, Aber Food Surplus is a not-for-profit social enterprise that works on a local level to highlight and address food waste through hands-on, proactive and positive action. The group currently collects around 300kg of food from supermarkets each week and redistributes it to local charities and community groups in and around the Aberystwyth region, whilst also running food waste education events and offering pay-as-you-feel meals.



The group was set up by three recent graduates of Aberystwyth University – Heather McClure, Chris Byrne and me. Before we created Aber Food Surplus, we had worked together to set up the Aberystwyth University student-led Sustainability Society, where our first campaign was focused on raising awareness of food waste at the university. This work ultimately led to the university installing a food waste collection service in all of its student accommodation. We were keen to build on this success and widen our reach to take in not just the university campus but the rest of the town as well.

When we founded the group, Heather had recently graduated from an MA in Regional and Environmental Policy, Chris was studying for a PhD focusing on global food security, and I was studying for an MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation at CAT, which reinforced my inspiration to tackle global issues in a practical and solutions-focused way within the local community.

We were all inspired to take action, but we were also all working full-time in minimum wage jobs. For more than a year, we ran the project in odd hours between work and study, managing daily food waste collections from Morrisons, Tesco Express, Tesco Superstore and M&S, and distributing food to between 10 and 15 groups in Aberystwyth. On top of this, we also ran a Community Café pay-as-you-feel pop-up event every other week, providing a total of over 1500 surplus meals during this time, and we established a pilot weekly pay-as-you-feel lunch in a local church.


Reaching further

The project was nearing its capacity on volunteer time, so in December 2017 we decided to apply for grant funding to help us expand our work. In April this year we were awarded funding from the EU and Welsh Government, allowing Aber Food Surplus to employ two members of staff for 30 hours a week and one member of staff five hours a week.*

The new funded project focuses on four key elements, which are: waste management innovation; community outreach; campaigns, marketing and promotion; and research and development. These focus areas combine the expansion and development of volunteer engagement through food surplus collections with the already thriving active community presence through more creative and effective public engagement and targeted education. For example, we are working with schools, the university, youth groups, families, the elderly, and clients of the charities and community groups that we deliver food to.

The waste management innovation side of the project focuses on tackling food waste at source; it is centred on preventing and reducing waste as well as exploring other innovative schemes with local businesses. Example activities include a community fridge, community composting schemes, trialling the use of apps in reducing food waste, and experimenting with more engaging and sustainable ways of collecting and redistributing food, e.g. using bikes and electric vehicles.

Ultimately, the group aims to enable and facilitate the town of Aberystwyth to demonstrate that it can become a zero-food-waste community as well as a thriving, exciting and connected place to live, with rewarding and fulfilling opportunities for everyone.


Why food waste?

The issue of food waste caught the public’s attention with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s primetime BBC programme, Hugh’s War on Waste, in late 2015. By highlighting the level of food waste across UK farms, retailers and households, the programme shamed supermarkets into action.

Morrisons, which at the time was the only large supermarket in Aberystwyth, was looking for pilot food redistribution projects across Wales. With the aid of WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) Cymru, this enabled us to start food waste collections and redistributions. The team already had contacts at WRAP Cymru and were inspired by the likes of Tristram Stuart and his company Feedback, as well as the food waste organisation This is Rubbish, which was originally founded in Machynlleth by CAT volunteers.

In addition, whilst collecting this food waste and starting to organise community events the team realised the beautiful potential of using food, especially food that would have been wasted, to bring people together. Food has the amazing ability to bind communities and allow people to connect with each other, learn, share stories and ideas and enjoy each other’s company, no matter what background, nationality, age, demographic or social hierarchy. This is reflected in the core values of Aber Food Surplus which are happiness, community and creativity.


How you can help

Aber Food Surplus has recently launched a new website so do please take a look!

We will be posting regular blog articles about food waste and our journey as well as information about upcoming events. If you would like to partner with us to run an event, please get in touch – we’re always looking to expand our network.

If you would like to start a similar project and would like advice, or if you have any suggestions for us, we’re more than happy to chat – drop us a line at aberfoodsurplus@outlook.com

About the author

Chris is a graduate of CAT’s MSc Sustainability and Adaptation, where his dissertation project focused on nature connection, happiness and pro-environmental behaviour. As well as his work on food waste, Chris is also passionate about tackling ocean plastics and is the coordinator of Plastic Free Aberystwyth as well as a number of other community-based environmental projects.

* The funding for Aber Food Surplus is from the LEADER scheme through the Cynnal y Cardi Local Action Group (administered by Ceredigion County Council) which is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Original blog can be found here http://blog.cat.org.uk/2018/11/21/waste-not-want-not/#more-24300

Aber Food Surplus
Aberystwyth: Community, Food and a Vision

Blog post originally written by the National Assembly for Wales for the Senedd@Aberystwyth events.

We’re bringing the Assembly to you

As part of our Senedd@ programme we’ve been meeting with community groups and activists across Aberystwyth to find out more about their visions for the future of the town and surrounding communities. From health to education, the environment and food, the Assembly is responsible for making decisions that affect our day to day lives. We think it’s important that, regardless of where you live in Wales, you can find out about how these are made and most importantly – how you can have your say.

On 28 November, we joined forces with Aber Food Surplus to create a community platform where people can eat, meet and tell us about the things that are important to them.


Aber Food Surplus – Who They Are and What They Do 

Aber Food Surplus is taking action to reduce food waste in Aberystwyth. They collect food local businesses are throwing away and redistribute it among the community. Through Pay As You Feel meals, co-founders Chris Woodfield, Chris Byrne and Heather McClure bring local people together and show them “waste” food can be tasty and nutritious. Their vision is for Aberystwyth to be a pioneering example of food sustainability. A place where food is grown, distributed and consumed in a fair and environmentally sustainable way. Where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to enjoy.

We talked to Chris Woodfield to find out more.

What inspired you to start Aber Food Surplus?

 To take action locally on environmental change with like-minded people. We are all passionate about the environmental impact of food waste and were keen to try our best to deliver grassroots change to this global problem and at the same time share this with our community and see how we can all work together to contribute positively to our local environment.


What impact has Aber Food Surplus had on the local community?

 We believe Aber Food Surplus has had a positive impact on the local community through providing wholesome and healthy Pay As You Feel meals on a regular basis as well as redistributing approximately 300kg of food waste every week. We continue to inspire and empower volunteers to take action locally and offer meaningful and rewarding volunteering opportunities.

What are your ambitions for the future?

 Our future plans are focused on facilitating the creation of a creative community and environmental hub in the centre of Aberystwyth. We are passionate about supporting our local economy, providing meaningful graduate level employment and supporting our community to thrive.  Ultimately, we believe Aberystwyth can become an exemplar case-study and pioneering town with regards to being a zero-food waste community and flourishing place to live, learn and grow.

Original blog post can be found here https://assemblyblog.wales/2018/12/05/aberystwyth-community-food-and-a-vision/

Aber Food Surplus
Young people host "Pay As You Feel" meal for the community

Blog post originally from Ceredigion County Council’s website.

On 19 December 2018, Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors and members of Penparcau Youth Club teamed up with Aber Food Surplus and Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos to host a ‘pay as you feel’ meal at Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos, Penparcau.

Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors and Penparcau Youth Club are both led by Ceredigion County Council’s Youth Service.

The event was co-hosted by young people, Aber Food Surplus and Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos. It raised over £60 for charity and was an opportunity for young people and the local community to learn about food waste and the redistribution of surplus food gathered from local supermarkets. Young people had the opportunity to create a menu, learn about food allergens and develop a range of new and existing skills by cooking for their family, friends and the local community.


Matthew Jennings from Ceredigion County Council’s Youth Service said, “Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors is made up of young people from Penparcau Youth Club who aim to develop community engagement projects and fundraisers in and around Penparcau and Aberystwyth. We had a great time working with Aber Food Surplus, where we cooked three different curries and a desert from surplus food which would have otherwise gone to waste. We would like to thank Aber Food Surplus for giving us the opportunity to cook with them and to Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos for supporting us to host the event, using the school’s facilities.”

Heather McClure from Aberystwyth Food Surplus said, “It was a lovely evening seeing the Youth Ambassador Team give food waste a new lease of life, and their eagerness to raise funds for the Indonesian Tsunami Appeal. The enthusiasm to chop vegetables and add seasonings was so enjoyable, and the young people provided a lovely welcoming service to all that attended for the community meal. Thank you and well done to the Youth Ambassadors team!"

Ceredigion Youth Service is the designated service for young people aged 11-25 in Ceredigion, dedicated to supporting young people’s personal, social and educational development through specialised support and open access provision. For more information or to find out what opportunities are available to you, head over to their Facebook and Twitter pages at @GICeredigionYS or contact the team on youth@ceredigion.gov.uk

Aber Food Surplus is a surplus food organization which aim to reduce food waste in Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth Food Surplus collect the food local businesses are throwing away and redistribute it among the community. To learn more about the work of Aber Food Surplus, visit their Facebook or Twitter pages @AberFoodSurplus or take a look at their website; https://www.aberfoodsurplus.co.uk/  

Original blog post can be found here https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/news/young-people-host-pay-as-you-feel-meal-for-the-community/

Aber Food Surplus
Aberystwyth: Cymuned, Bwyd a Gweledigaeth

Original blog post from the National Assembly of Wales for the Senedd@Aberystwyth events - Welsh version:

Rydyn ni’n dod â’r Cynulliad i chi

Fel rhan o’n cynllun Senedd@ rydym wedi bod yn cyfarfod â grwpiau cymunedol ac ymgyrchwyr ledled Aberystwyth i gael gwybod mwy am eu gweledigaethau ar gyfer dyfodol y dref a’r cymunedau cyfagos. O iechyd i addysg, yr amgylchedd a bwyd, mae’r Cynulliad yn gyfrifol am wneud penderfyniadau sy’n effeithio ar ein bywydau o ddydd i ddydd. Rydyn ni’n meddwl ei bod yn bwysig, ble bynnag rydych chi’n byw yng Nghymru, i chi gael gwybod sut mae’r rhain yn cael eu gwneud ac yn bwysicaf oll – sut gallwch chi ddweud eich dweud.

Ar 28 Tachwedd, gwnaethom ymuno â Bwyd Dros Ben Aber i greu llwyfan cymunedol lle gall pobl fwyta, cyfarfod a dweud wrthym am y pethau sy’n bwysig iddyn nhw.

Bwyd Dros Ben Aber – Pwy ydyn nhw a beth maen nhw’n ei wneud


Mae Bwyd Dros Ben Aber yn cymryd camau i leihau gwastraff bwyd yn Aberystwyth. Maen nhw’n casglu bwyd mae busnesau lleol yn ei daflu ac yn ei ailddosbarthu o fewn y gymuned. Drwy brydau “Pay As You Feel”, mae’r cyd-sylfaenwyr Chris Woodfield, Chris Byrne a Heather McClure yn dod â phobl leol at ei gilydd ac yn dangos bod “gwastraff” da yn gallu bod yn flasus ac yn faethlon. Eu gweledigaeth yw i Aberystwyth fod yn enghraifft arloesol o gynaliadwyedd bwyd. Yn rhywle lle caiff bwyd ei dyfu, ei ddosbarthu a’i fwyta mewn ffordd deg ac yn gynaliadwy o ran yr amgylchedd – lle mae pobl o bob oedran a chefndir yn dod at ei gilydd i fwynhau.

Buom yn siarad â Chris Woodfield i gael rhagor o wybodaeth.

Beth wnaeth dy ysbrydoli i ddechrau Bwyd Dros Ben Aber?

Gweithredu’n lleol ar newid amgylcheddol gyda phobl debyg. Rydym i gyd yn angerddol ynghylch effaith gwastraff bwyd ar yr amgylchedd ac roeddem yn awyddus i wneud ein gorau i sicrhau newid ar lawr gwlad i’r broblem fyd-eang hon ac ar yr un pryd i rannu hyn â’n cymuned a gweld sut y gallwn ni oll gydweithio i gyfrannu’n gadarnhaol at ein hamgylchedd lleol.


Pa effaith mae Bwyd Dros Ben Aber wedi’i chael ar y gymuned leol?

Credwn fod Bwyd Dros Ben Aber wedi cael effaith gadarnhaol ar y gymuned leol drwy ddarparu prydau bwyd “Pay As You Feel” iachus yn rheolaidd yn ogystal ag ailddosbarthu tua 300kg o wastraff bwyd bob wythnos. Rydym yn parhau i ysbrydoli a grymuso gwirfoddolwyr i weithredu’n lleol a chynnig cyfleoedd gwirfoddoli ystyrlon a buddiol.

Beth yw eich uchelgeisiau ar gyfer y dyfodol?

Mae ein cynlluniau ar gyfer y dyfodol yn canolbwyntio ar hwyluso’r broses o greu canolfan gymunedol ac amgylcheddol greadigol yng nghanol Aberystwyth. Rydym yn angerddol ynghylch cefnogi ein heconomi leol, gan ddarparu cyflogaeth ystyrlon ar lefel graddedigion a chefnogi ein cymuned i ffynnu.  Yn y pen draw, credwn y gall Aberystwyth ddod yn astudiaeth achos enghreifftiol ac yn dref arloesol o ran bod yn gymuned dim gwastraff bwyd ac yn lle llewyrchus i fyw, dysgu a thyfu.

Original blog post can be found here https://blogcynulliad.com/2018/12/05/aberystwyth-cymuned-bwyd-a-gweledigaeth/

Aber Food Surplus
The Aberystwyth charity changing the way we see food...and the inequality it highlights

Guest Article from Gethin Jones, 2018

How many times have you looked at the ‘best before’ date on a piece of food, and concluded that (despite it looking all right) it was probably best to chuck it away, just in case? Well, you aren’t alone, one third of the food produced in the world is wasted each year. Wales alone threw away 350,000 tons of household food waste in 2015, much of which is still perfectly edible. 

Food wastage happens all along the food chain, from farmers to your fridge at home. Supermarkets and food stores around the country throw away food once it has passed its ‘freshest’ because who is really going to fork out their money for food not at its best

Once food has passed its prime, this surplus food that failed to sell at reduced prices, goes straight in the bin. Although in some parts of Wales, your food waste helps create renewable energy, much of it still ends up in landfills.

It seems quite nonsensical that instead of making use of this food, we often prefer to just bury it in the ground, doesn’t it? Surely perfectly edible, nutritious food should be put to better use. With food banks on the rise in Wales, ensuring we don’t throw away good food is essential. Plus, food waste produces a lot of methane while it rots, a gas 23 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.

This is where charities like Aber Food Surplus in Aberystwyth are helping to curb this trend. Through negotiations with local shops, they are helping to reduce the amount of edible food going to landfills, and turning it into delicious meals for the local community on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis. Meaning that whether you’re a tourist interested in trying out the pop-up meal venues around the town, or you’re struggling for food one week, the volunteer chefs can cook you up something tasty every Thursday at their community café. They aim is to make “environmentally conscious meals” available to those who want to eat more environmentally friendly, but cannot afford it.

Heather McClure, one of the co-founders of Aber Food Surplus, was busy on her collection rounds to pick up surplus food when I spoke to her. She said that they collect one ton of edible food from food stores in Aberystwyth every month and then redistribute most of it to various other community groups in the area, and organisations that provide services like sheltered accommodation, refugee support, or community meals; such as Aberaid, Salvation Army and Care Society. 

However, she stressed that their organisation is not a solution to the problem of people not being able to afford to eat, and that their food supply is “too unreliable for our the most vulnerable in society to rely on”.  Although she said it would be nice to be able to address the poverty problem and that they do as much as they can, their cause is about “bringing people together through positive and proactive environmentalism, not tackling inequality”. She said that the problem of people not being able to afford food is a much larger societal issue and that the “emergency relief” that their organisation is able to provide cannot be seen as an adequate solution. Placing the burden of reducing poverty on charity organisations simply “relieves the need for the government to take action to tackle the problem”. 

The amount of people who became reliant on the service Heather and her colleagues provided was indicative of a wider problem, one that surplus food from shops cannot solve. In Wales, almost a quarter of the population live in poverty, the highest rate of any country in the UK and a statistic set to rise by 2022. This means that by 2022, 39% of children in Wales will be growing up in families struggling to put food on the table each week. 

With spiralling living costs and stagnant wages across the UK, we can all do our bit to help reduce food waste. Not only for our pockets, but for the planet too.

Aber Food Surplus
A day in the life of Aber Food Surplus

We have two premises that are run by Aber Food Surplus. We have our food headquarters (The Redistribution Hub), and our thinking headquarters (The Office). 

The redistribution hub is opened up twice a day for food to either be logged and stored (PM), or sorted and delivered (AM). 

We arrive in the morning at the food headquarters to open up the premises and meet volunteers, we all sign in and check the premises is clean and safe, and that the food is looking in fine condition. We check out the food deliveries board: this shows us where food has been delivered this week. Then we check the food deliveries rota: this shows us where food should have been delivered this week. These two boards are usually quite similar, however they can differ because some days there is a lot more surplus than others, and there are some days where different organisations require or do not require food surplus. We then decide what deliveries need doing that day, and think about the need of those organisations. 


Some organisations receive food deliveries for different uses, for example: to cook meals that bring the community together; to provide for sheltered accommodation clients; or to operate in a food bank style. So we have to sort the deliveries according to what we think the organisations can use. We then load up a volunteers car, and set off on the rounds. 

It can be heavy work moving all that food. 

In the evenings there is more heavy work to be done. Different volunteers come in around 7:30pm to start the collections from supermarkets. Most evenings there are 4 collections; Morrisons, Tesco Superstore, M&S, and Lidl. (Tesco Express is in the mornings, and Bookers and Nisa (CKs) are more ad-hoc). We recieve a text message authorisation from the supermarkets and reply YES, we show the store staff the text message and our Aber Food Surplus identity, and they let us accept the food. We then load up the car and take the food back to the premises. Before sorting and storing the food on either shelving units or in our fridges and freezers, we weigh all the food. This allows us to know how much food we are saving from going to waste, and becoming an environmental problem. 

Currently we collect 250kgs of food waste from supermarkets every week. This equates to 1 tonne of food waste every month. 

At the office, the project coordinators have recently received funding to expand on the work of Aber Food Surplus. There are 3 project coordinators: Chris Byrne, Chris Woodfeild, and Heather McClure. They will then spend the day working on different aspects of the project. This can involve planning and delivering school workshops; running pop up stalls at events with information on the impact of food waste and how we can prevent it; or by encouraging young people or children to try the smoothie bike to make smoothies with surplus fruit. The project coordinators might be organising events and kitchen space, recruiting volunteers, and supporting them to cook up 3 course dinners to be served to the community on a 'Pay As You Feel' basis. The project coordinators are particularly keen in taking a holistic approach to their work with food waste, and believe that we should be focussing on the whole food system to reduce its environmental impact. Therefore, they spend time planning community consultations, where we can gather ideas about the type of food future we would like to see in Aberystwyth, and how we can plan for a resilient food system.

Furthermore, there are planning ways to expand on the work they already do by involving more businesses, and supporting businesses to work towards making Aberystwyth the first 'Zero Food Waste Town'.  Recently, the team have been working on other solutions to reduce food waste in Aberystwyth, for example: promoting apps like 'Olio' and '2 Good 2 Go'; connecting with social and environmentally friendly animal businesses to figure out how we can provide animal feed; looking for people who might be interested in a 'foster a composter' project; and for volunteers to help with the idea of a 'Community Fridge'. They have already started working with some volunteers to start to build on the idea of a 'Community Fridge', but are still looking for lots more community support and volunteers. Check out how the community fridge could work here. We would be keen to have more people involved in the project, and hear your ideas on where it should go. 

Please get in touch if you would like to be involved in any aspect of the project, you can do this by email, or through our 'Get involved' page on our website.



Photo Credit: No Church in the Wild, Aberystwyth

Photo Credit: No Church in the Wild, Aberystwyth

Aber Food Surplus