Food waste is a seemingly backwards problem: on the one hand, some people have more produce than they know what to do with. On the other, millions are going hungry. Beyond that, unused food ends up in landfills and contributes to greenhouse emissions. The United Nations has even estimated that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of climate-change gases, behind China and the US.
The challenge, in our homes and businesses, is that surplus fresh food is time-sensitive, meaning users must be found quickly, and be close enough to receive it asap. That’s where lightening-fast technology comes in.
These innovative startups have created apps that help businesses and individuals pass on or sell surplus food in a timely, waste-free fashion.
This free app connects neighbours with each other and with nearby shops so surplus food can be shared rather than thrown away. As a provider, you snap whatever you can’t use, add a brief description, and provide pick-up details. Meanwhile, users can see what is available nearby, either free or for a charitable donation. So far, Olio has been used by 120,000 people who have shared 175,000 items.
Look out for: Olio has recently introduced Food Waste Heroes – volunteers that collect food to redistribute within their community. Early next year, Olio aims to introduce user ratings and a desktop version of the app.
Based in Chicago, this startup collects excess meals from restaurants and delivers them for free to non-profit organisations, saving the suppliers money as they pay less tax. Zero Percent staff collect from businesses at a time convenient for them. So far, 504 donors have given 105,5000 meals to 376 worthy causes.
Watch out for: To fund its operation, Zero Percent has now launched SnackPass, an app that gives users five snacks a month, from soup and smoothies to coffee and doughnuts, for a $10 a month subscription, all fees supporting its work.
Devised in Ireland and now present in the UK, FoodCloud distributes unsold produce on a larger scale – from supermarkets to charities. Stores upload details of surplus food using the app or their own scanners. Local organisations linked to that outlet receive details of what’s available and can then respond if interested, helping them create meals for breakfast clubs to homeless hostels. The newly-launched FoodCloud Hubs rescue, store and redistribute food from major suppliers such as farms, processors and distributors. Across the two nations, the social enterprise has donated 6 million meals, working with 1100 businesses and 3000 charities.
Look out for: FoodCloud now aims to roll out internationally, and to integrate both sides of its operation so users deal only with one service.
Italians are notoriously picky eaters, so this app that allows shopkeepers to alert potential customers about discounts on unsold food has a twist: users can specify what types of food they are interested in and how far they would travel for each one. Starting in Turin in 2014, LMSC has expanded to cover pretty much every region of Italy – including Sicily and Sardinia – supporting small businesses that have struggled in the face of the burgeoning supermarket sector and convenience shopping.
LMSC is an innovative digital loudhailer that fights wasted food and improves socialization in city's districts.
Founded in Denmark in 2015, Too Good To Go enables users to order food from restaurants, delis and cafes at knockdown prices that would otherwise be thrown away. Users pay online, saving up to 90 per cent on regular prices (currently the highest UK charge is £3.80), then pick up the food at their convenience. So far, TGTG has spread to six countries and saved 10,000 meals, avoiding an estimated 17 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Watch out for: In the UK, TGTG’s plan for 2017 is to expand into cities such as Bristol and Oxford. The team are also looking to develop its Pay It Forward Scheme, allowing users to buy meals for people in need.