Tech start-up finds there’s money in food waste

Every year an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of  food is thrown away in the UK. Entrepreneurs Mette Lykke and Jamie Crummie, based in Shoreditch, realized the potential to develop a  brand new market and together founded an app  which they called “Too good to go”.

Their idea was to set up a way of connecting the needy and restaurants with an online application. They’ve managed to sign up more than 3,100 business partners fighting food waste in the UK and more than 30,000 outlets in 12 countries across Europe. They claim that 30 million meals have been saved, preventing almost 77,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted as a result.

Food waste has gradually caught people’s attention as sustainability becomes an important issue around the globe. In the EU, it is estimated that one-third of food ends up going into a bin. According to Waste & Resources Action Programme, a UK charity which aims to improve resource efficiency, every household in the UK discards food worth £60 every month. That means the problem is causing almost £19 billion lost annually in the UK.

The market is reckoned to have such potential that Karma, a Swedish company, is also competing for it. They have 1,800 outlets in the UK currently, and have raised £13 million to expand even faster to reach more customers. It means the two pioneers are often directly competing with each other in big markets like London. 

Short video: Jason Lu

Orcunoz, a manager of Cafe Route, a restaurant in Hackney, said the two applications save around 3 to 4 meals every day combined, but also admitted that it is still inevitable that left-overs will be produced. Asked whether this is profitable, he said: “If course we make a few (pence) from then, but that’s not the point. We do this to help on solving this (food-waste) problem.”

Karma charges 25% from every transaction made on the app, while Too Good To Go takes half from it. Both apps hope they are doing their bit to reduce food waste, as it is believed the problem contributes to almost 8% of total CO2 emissions. 

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