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How to fight food waste with your mobile phone

What’s happening? Discount food app Too Good To Go, which sells surplus food from restaurants and shops, has partnered with GPS navigation app Waze for 30 days to tackle food waste. The Waze for Good project, which runs throughout August 2021, flags 100 Too Good To Go partner businesses across selected US metro areas on the Waze map. (The Spoon)

Why does this matter? An estimated one third of all food worldwide is wasted. This equates to using land mass the size of China to grow food that is never consumed.

The simple act of throwing food away not only wastes the food itself but also the resources, labour and transportation required to produce it. Water, for example, is used at almost every level of food production and represents one of the most staggering statistics as roughly 170 trillion litres are wasted each year — costing $172bn.

These factors all contribute to food waste’s carbon footprint, which makes up 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an issue that needs addressing, but thankfully consumer-facing solutions could offer new life for abandoned produce.

There’s an app for that – Over the last few years, apps have been developed to help connect individuals and businesses with food that would otherwise go to waste. OLIO, for example, allows users to take a photo of the food they want to offload and arrange a pickup location for someone else to make use of it. This approach is suitable for neighborhoods where people can walk or cycle, but it’s important to remember that travelling in vehicles to collect small amounts of produce comes with its own environmental impact.

Alternatively, Too Good To Go offers customers a “magic” box of groceries containing products that would otherwise end up as waste. After choosing a store and paying through the app, users are given a time slot for when they can collect their items. Switching one meal a day for a week with a Too Good To Go option could save a customer over £100, the company claims. It also suggests each meal purchased prevents 2.5 kg of CO2e emissions that would otherwise be caused by food waste.

Elsewhere, Germany-based FoodSharing provides a free service focusing on surplus food from supermarkets and businesses, allowing individuals to gather food from designated collection points. These initiatives are locally effective, however they can struggle to put a dent in the larger issue.

Smart supermarkets – It’s easy to place the blame on wasteful consumers, however retail stores deserve scrutiny too – UK supermarkets alone throw away 190 million meals each year.

Technology is also now on offer to help grocery stores manage this issue. Wasteless, for example, uses artificial intelligence to adjust product prices based on their expiry dates, giving an incentive for consumers to purchase food that would otherwise end up in the supermarket skips. Being able to automatically alter prices could be a promising solution that takes the onus off staff manually reducing items.

To tackle the issue holistically means addressing wastage in all parts of the supply chain, but thankfully technology is becoming more sophisticated to allow everyone to play their part. Food for thought.

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Fred Fullerton

Sustainability Curator

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