British Supermarket Launches Banana Rescue Stations to Curb Food Waste

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Picking out groceries can feel like judging a beauty contest. Instead of choosing the nearest fruit or vegetable they see, some shoppers like to root through the pile until they’ve found a specimen that’s free of blemishes. An immaculate apple may look nicer on the kitchen counter, but it’s no healthier than its bruised or misshapen peers.

Customers’ disdain for “ugly” (yet perfectly edible) produce is a major contributor to food waste. As The Independent reports, the British supermarket chain Sainsbury's recently looked at consumer pickiness when it comes to bananas. Data gathered by the UK’s waste advisory group Wrap shows that Britons are throwing out 1.4 million bananas a day. Now Sainsbury's is launching a banana rescue initiative in an attempt to lower that number.

Many of the bananas that land in the trash are salvageable: The report found that 13 percent of those surveyed will discard the fruit if it has any green on the skin. One in three responders confessed to tossing bananas at the first sight of a bruise or black spot.

Sainsbury’s wants to rebrand the brown banana. Starting the week of May 15, the chain is erecting hundreds of pop-up “banana rescue” stations inside its stores. The stands provide shoppers with recipe inspiration for bananas that might otherwise get tossed. Bananas approaching an unappetizing shade of black, for instance, are perfect for baking. As bananas ripen past the point of yellow perfection, enzymes convert their starch into liquid sugar. Sainsbury’s recommends using the sweet mushy mess to make banana bread. Other applications for bananas past their prime include smoothies, fruit salads, and dried chips.

The campaign likely won’t get every bruised banana into shopping carts and out the door, but it’s a start. The overripe bananas the supermarket chains is unable to sell will be baked into banana bread by in-store bakeries at 110 locations. As Paul Crewe, head of sustainability, engineering, energy, and environment for Sainsbury’s, tells The Independent, “The quest for a perfectly a-peeling banana is resulting in waste that could be avoided ... There’s no need to bin the bruised ones anymore.”

[h/t The Independent]