How many times have you left food in the fridge long enough that, when you finally decided to have it, it has gone off? Yes, I’m talking about those bananas you bought and left in there, or that milk bottle you opened and forgot about it. It may not seem like a big issue if from time to time you throw a few goods away, but, if you think about it globally, you may want to reconsider.
Food wasting all over the world
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), a third of the food we produce every year globally goes to waste. This means that roughly 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly fine food is wasted, which translates to 95/115 kg of waste per person in Europe and North America every year, whereas sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia have a per capita ratio of 6/11 kg of wasted goods per year. While in low-income countries the waste happens at post-harvest and processing levels, in more industrialized countries more than 40% of the food gets thrown away by retail platforms and customers.
While there is not much we can do individually to affect the waste happening in the producing process, we could do our bit by trying to limit the damage at a customer level. We all are consumers and there are many ways to prevent expiring food or leftovers ending up in the bin.
Most bars and restaurants tend to overproduce food, so that customers will always have a wide selection of items. Unfortunately, when the supply is higher than the demand, a lot of goods end up expiring before being sold. These would normally end up in the bin, but there is something shops and customers could do to avoid that.
Recently a growing number of shops have been selling the expiring food with special discounts or offers, in order to reduce the food wastage. When you shop at a supermarket, have a look in the reduced section. You might find high quality products at a very discounted price. You could make a bargain as well as saving the product from the bin. The same policy is used by some other food chains, which discount their expiring goods half an hour before closing. This really helps to limit their food loss, and it’s then up to the customer not to let the food go off in their fridge.
While these offers depend on their company policies, there are now web platforms that have been increasing awareness of food waste and facilitating the promotion of offers on expiring food.
Karma is a Swedish start-up, founded in 2016. If you download the app, you will see what surplus food restaurants have and you will be able to get it at a very discounted price. The Karma app has spread all over Sweden, used by 2,000 retailers and 500,000 consumers. In 2018, Karma was launched in London and this year in Paris. Until now, 420 tonnes of food have been rescued!
Too Good to Go
This app will help you purchase a variety of food at a very discounted price. Once you download it, you will see which cafes are offering meals. You will be able to buy a ‘Magic bag’ consisting of an assortment of goods which would otherwise be thrown away. The ‘Magic bag’ will always be a surprise, as the shop cannot forecast which goods will be unsold, but, when buying, you can let them know about any allergies or dietary requirements. Later on, collecting the bag, you will find out what you bought, enjoy a very discounted quality meal and feel satisfied with your role in the fight against food-wasting!
Too Good to Go was launched in 2016 and it started becoming very popular from the beginning. In 2017, 500,000 meals were saved from the bin, and in 2018 the amount reached 2 million food items. The app is now available in 12 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom) and it will spread even more. If you live in one of these countries, give it a try and contribute to the cause, while enjoying a delicious meal!
Cafes and restaurants might use Karma and Too Good To Go and donate to charities, but, considering the high amount of food production, there is still normally a surplus of food. This is when Olio comes into play.
Olio is an app which promotes food sharing and fights all waste. It is a non-profit organization based on the works of volunteers, called ‘Food Waste Heroes’, who ‘rescue’ the food just before it gets thrown away. They will collect the items from cafes and food shops, then post them in the app and distribute them to the people who reply and send a request for free. If you use the Olio app, you will get delicious free food which is about to expire and therefore cannot be sold anymore.
Another interesting feature of the app is that anyone can join and share their surplus of food. If you are moving and can’t take all those bean cans with you, you could create a post on the app and donate them to someone who will enjoy them. This is how the app was founded: Tessa Cook, co-founder, was about to move and couldn’t stand the idea of throwing away all the food that she was not bringing with her.
Home food waste
There is something else you should keep in mind when it comes to food waste. The biggest waste happens in our kitchen. I know what you are thinking, it’s not a big deal, it just happens from time to time. However, statistics say that 20% of the food we buy goes to waste. There are few apps that can help you reduce your personal food waste, such as Plant Jammer 2.0, which suggests recipes using the expiring food you have at home, and Pantry Check, which will help you organize your food inventory and make sure you don’t let the food go off.
As you can see, there are many ways we can all contribute to prevent the waste. The tech industry has started a proper revolution that is already making a huge impact, but still a lot of food keeps ending up in the bin. It is our responsibility to do our part and try to avoid any waste, buying expiring food to use on the day, finding ourselves a nice bargain, and keeping an eye open in our kitchen.
So, now that you know all of this, will you join the fight against food wasting?