Marks & Spencer is to launch a nationwide surplus food redistribution scheme as part of its commitment to tackling food waste.

The scheme will connect all its stores with local food charities and accelerate the company’s target of reducing food waste by 20% by the end of the decade.

In the initial launch phase, 150 of M&S’s biggest stores will be ready to redistribute surplus food by December, followed by the rollout to all M&S’s owned stores by spring next year.

Redistributed food will include products nearing their expiry date including fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes and groceries, and will vary according to charity need.

M&S is working in partnership with social network Neighbourly to deliver the scheme through its website to help food charities and food banks register and receive food from their local store.

Food charities that want to participate can register online from Monday 12 October via the Neighbourly phone app.

This scheme will make M&S the first major retailer to provide live updates on the number of tonnes of surplus food redistributed.

The launch follows a series of trials and pilots in 45 stores aimed at finding the most effective way of redistributing surplus food – the scheme with Neighbourly was trialled in six stores in the Bristol and Bath area earlier this year.

Since April, the six stores have redistributed nearly four tonnes of surplus food and charity collections are now occurring on a daily basis.

M&S currently sends food waste to anaerobic digestion energy plants – a costly process that results in thousands of tonnes of edible food to be thrown away.

“Our key priority is to reduce food waste whilst ensuring that, where there is food surplus, we put it to the best possible use,” said Louise Nicholls, head of responsible sourcing, packaging and Plan A at M&S.

“This is the first nationwide redistribution scheme to provide an innovative, practical solution to surplus food redistribution by building local connections, enabling all our stores to link with local food projects and help support their communities.”