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Blog: The Best Before Project, Bury St Edmunds


Blog: The Best Before Project, Bury St Edmunds

By Rosamund Scott, Volunteer, Best Before Project

The Best Before Project (BBP) - Bury St Edmunds is a national non-profit organisation that addresses the issue of the huge amount of food thrown into land-fill daily.  The Project started in London in 2011 and since then has prevented at least 60 tonnes of food from being wasted.  The group, feel food is thrown out because people don’t understand the difference between the ‘best before’ and the ‘use by’ label and think that the food is hazardous to eat after the ‘best before’ date has passed.

The aim of the group is to redistribute stock that has gone past its “best before” date, so still perfectly fit for human consumption as per guidance from DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency.  Food is collected directly from supermarkets and redistributed on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis to individuals and families from the local area, particularly those on low or zero incomes. Running this project not only prevents food from being wasted, it helps the local community and educates shoppers on the 'best before' label.


The group, made up of driven individuals from all walks of life, were joined together by their passion of stopping food wastage and increasing education. Early in 2017, the group applied for a grant from the local council in Bury St Edmunds, with the idea of using the money to pay for premises for the project . In April 2017 a grant was received for £3400 from local councillor, David Nettleton and using this money, the group opened a small shop in Elseys Yard in August 2017.

The grant paid for one year's rent/rates with little money left for shelving so relied on donations for the extra essentials such as a kettle and mugs. 

The project, a member of “Fare-share”, is run by 100% volunteers who, every week, pick up fresh produce from Tesco in Bury St Edmunds that can't be sold the next day eg. bread, bakery goods etc.


The shop opens on a Tuesday with a queue of people reliant on the project for food.  BBP has fantastic support from local businesses and residents, may that do not need to use the project themselves, but are in a position to support the community and are passionate on reducing food waste and helping the environment.

While waste is being generated and sent to land-fills the BBP will redirect food, where possible, to the local community.  The bulk of waste in the UK actually is from homes and commercial waste - shops, restaurants, work places etc. The project also aims to teach anyone that visits the shop ways to reduce the needless tonnes of food that are wasted each week.

Ideally the shop would open more than once a week, but to do this more stock is needed and more stock means waste food destined for the land-fill.  Although the project are paying rent on the shop for every day, every week, they are currently only open four hours each week, which of course is a waste of 'rent money'.  Ideally BBP would open twice a week going forward, although for this to open more hands would be needed.

The Project currently has a volunteer base of about 6 people, but never turn away helping hands hands, if this is something you are passionate about and live nearby do get in touch directly with BBP.  The group have lots of fantastic ideas to generate but just not enough people volunteering.  You would be meeting new people, helping a community and cutting down on all the excess waste.


Reducing Food Waste

Some of UK food items travel around the world to feed our demands.  Think of the cost: the fuel needed, the pollution, the packaging, the strain on human resources and their land. When the food arrives we always have with heaps of food left-overs, because we are a society of over-producers and over-consumer This food usually ends up in landfill, polluting the atmosphere and ground water.

In recent years this has improved with supermarkets keeping better stock to reduce food waste, otherwise risk getting charges put on them for disposal.  Supermarkets are working with groups like BBP to ensure the food is distributed to people that need it rather than wasted

Top Tips

  • Shop smart and realistically
  • When cooking, don't over-serve food
  • Save – and actually eat – leftovers. Make stews, soups, curries etc. Buy a slow cooker
  • Store food in the right places
  • Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry and freezer
  • Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines
  • Keep track of what you throw away
  • Donate to food banks and farms
  • Shop local and support your local farmer or neighbour who sells free range eggs

Food Waste in St Edmundsbury

Why BBP are keen to make a change

  • Up to 7,638 tonnes per annum of waste food is placed into residual bins in St Edmundsbury. 
  • As much as 44% of discarded food waste is still packaged which equates to 3,341 tonnes per annum. 
  • Over half (54%) of the food waste is of a type that can be composted at home using general garden composters (4,162 tonnes per annum).
  • All fully packaged & unopened Home Compostable food waste 1583.31T
  • All fully packaged & unopened Non-Home Compostable food waste 1757.81T
  • All Loose Home Compostable food waste - Unused 2578.61T
  • All Loose Non-Home Compostable food waste - Unused 1271,63T
  • Mixed unsortable Food Waste - 436.52T
By supporting projects such as Best Before Date you will be:
  • Helping cut down food going to landfill, benefiting the environment
  • Supporting the farmer/producer to ensure their produce is not wasted 
  • More confident in cooking food past its 'Best Before Date'

Best Before Project - Bury St Edmunds

4 Elseys Yard, Risbygate St, Bury Saint Edmunds IP33 3AA, UK