Even before climate change became a topic on everyone's lips, didn't you just hate throwing away food? When you learn that food waste accounts for a whopping 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, doesn't that sinking feeling just increase?

Of course, there are many more reasons for throwing food away than simply buying too much (perhaps encouraged by the special offers at the supermarket?) or not planning meals more carefully.

Sometimes with the best will in the world you find yourself staring into the fridge the day before you are due to go on holiday, realising that there is no alternative.

Or maybe you have lovingly tended your plants for months, and then you find you have dozens of courgettes or tomatoes that will need to be eaten or turned into a freezable dish before you can go to bed that night.

And then there's the other side of the coin. Many families would love to be able to give their children fresh vegetables, but can't afford to do so. Or they might want to treat the children to something sweet, but can't afford to pop in to the baker's on the way home.

A community fridge appears to answer these conundrums, but what exactly is a community fridge, and how does it work?

It is a simple way of sharing good food that would otherwise go to waste. Around the UK and Europe Community Fridges have helped thousands connect to their communities, access nutritious food, save money and learn about living sustainably.

The environmental charity, Hubbub, set up a Community Fridge Network in 2017 following the launch of the first Community Fridge in Derbyshire in 2016. There are now more than 70 Community Fridges running across the UK, with the latest - the Dundee West End Community Fridge - opening at the beginning of August. It is run by the Gate Church Carbon Saving Project, a climate challenge project funded by the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund to help its community transition to a more sustainable way of life. The fridge is open seven days a week to enable residents and local businesses to share surplus quality food that would otherwise go to waste.

Project Co-ordinator, Lynsey Penny, said: "Anyone can help themselves to the food in the fridge. We are trying to reduce the food waste and think this is a great way for individuals and businesses to re-distribute food that may otherwise have ended up in landfill."

Although the fridge was officially launched on August 4, it opened a couple of weeks earlier, for only a few hours each day. The reaction from members of the local community was astonishing. Lynsey said: "We had an incredible first couple of weeks for our soft launch, redistributing an estimated 1500kg of food. Not only did we have more than 300 individuals visit the fridge, we also had groups cooking food for those in need around Dundee."

Most of the visitors had not heard of a Community Fridge before but were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the idea. Although the bulk of the food so far has been donated by supermarkets, many individuals have wanted to donate to, as well as take from, the fridge. Store cupboard essentials have been passed on by people moving house. Local gardeners have brought along their excess produce. One lady even brought along the toffees from her box of Quality Street, explaining that she doesn't like them and one little girl donated a single packet of crisps.

The fridge is run to the same high standards of hygiene as any other food business so can only take donations of food that is unspoilt and within its 'use-by' date (though not its 'best before' date).

The team behind the fridge is at pains to point out that the fridge is about food waste, rather than food poverty, so is open to absolutely everyone.

"It is important to us that anyone can take food from the Community Fridge - the project is about food waste and bringing the community together - therefore, there should be no stigma for the people who really need it," said Lynsey. Avoiding stigma is one of the reasons the team chose to have a standalone, unmanned fridge.

But there is a question hanging in the air, that is sometimes voiced . Won't some people take advantage and just carry as much as they can possibly can out of the fridge, ignoring the signs urging everyone to take only what they can use?

Lynsey knows that is a possibility but chooses to trust people not to abuse the system. However, she said that the team have given it some thought and have made plans to pre-empt such a situation. So far it has not been a problem.

Ylva Huglund, Zero Waste Scotland's Food Waste campaigns manager is thrilled to see the fridge up and running. She said: "Scotland is committed to reducing food waste and Community Fridges are a brilliantly simple way of using up quality fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away."

She continued: "We hope that other communities across the country will follow suit when they see the positive impact they can make."

The Dundee West Community Fridge is at Millar's Wyne, Perth Road, Dundee and is open until 8pm Monday - Friday and 4pm Saturday and Sunday.


The Dundee Community Fridge, now in its fourth month has surpassed all expectations. The average community fridge in the UK distributes around one tonne of food each month, the one in Dundee has distributed three times that, almost nine tonnes since it opened in August.