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Food waste and the climate crisis

Food waste is one of the biggest problems facing humanity today and urgent action is needed to tackle this huge environmental issue, locally and globally.

To find out more about the problem of food waste and what we can do about it, we tuned in to the Deliciously Ella podcast to listen an insightful conversation with Tessa Clarke, Co-Founder of Olio - the food waste app.

Tessa covers the shocking facts about food waste, how this is contributing to the escalating climate crisis, and the actions individuals and businesses can take to be part of the of the solution.

Food Waste - The Facts

  • Over ⅓ of all food produced around the world goes to waste at cost of $1 trillion!

  • An area larger than China and 25% of the world’s freshwater supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.

  • In the UK, households are responsible for 1/2 of all food waste.

  • According to research by Olio, we throw away 25 million slices of bread everyday in (not including shops, bakeries etc.), alongside 6 million potatoes and 1.4 million bananas! Throwing away one slice of bread might not feel like a lot, but when millions are doing it it adds up.

  • The average family throws away £800 worth of food each year that could have been eaten, adding up to £15 billion worth of food wasted.

  • Although some London boroughs offer a food waste collection service, which diverts our waste to anaerobic digestion (a process which generates energy to power our homes) most of the food waste we produce is still going to landfill.

Climate Change

  • Food waste needs to be a big part of the climate change conversation, and we need to take responsibility as individuals.

  • If food waste was a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US.

  • When food waste decomposes without access to oxygen in landfills it creates methane - a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than CO2 and a huge contributor to climate change.

  • In 2017, the Project Drawdown report - produced by 80 of the world’s leading climate change scientists - identified 100 solutions to reverse global warming, and food waste was ranked number 3, above electric cars and solar power.

Feeding the world

  • In the UK, 8 million people are living in food poverty. Food wasted in our homes alone is more than enough to feed them.

  • 2.2 billion people are expected to join our planet by 2050 and feeding all of them will be a huge challenge.

  • To feed 10 billion people by 2050 we need to increase global food production by 50%, which we don’t have the capacity to do. We’re farming all the land we have available, and we risk deforestation and wildlife extinction if we push further.

What can we do about it?

  • We must value food!

  • We don’t have to wait for government or businesses to take action. It doesn’t take huge infrastructure, like electric vehicles do. We can start right now in our own homes.

  • Taking action is not expensive and saves you money - £800 a year potentially!

  • In schools, we need to teach children where their food comes from, as they’re often not aware of the hard work and resources that go into producing it.

  • We need to teach children how to cook, store and preserve food.

Top Tips

  • Plan meals - think ahead for the week and shop to that plan (it’s easy to buy bargains and more than you need!)

  • Preserve - Freeze half a loaf of bread, defrost and toast. Freeze chicken and defrost when needed. You can freeze almost anything!

  • Make veggie stews/soups, banana bread, fruit smoothies etc. to use up items (even half eaten apples!)

  • Google new recipes to use up vegetables, and make versatile breadcrumbs to use up every last bit of that loaf!

What is the government doing?

Businesses must do their bit

  • Retail stores generate less than 5% of food waste in England but they have an important part to play in the fight against food waste.

  • Taking action as a small business might be challenging but it can be done. Here are some examples of businesses doing their bit:

  • Karma App - Purchase food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to enjoy for half the regular price.

  • Too Good To Go - ‘Magic Bags' containing perfectly edible food that stores and restaurants have to throw out at the end of the day.

  • Winnow - Winnow Vision technology improves accuracy and efficiency of food waste monitoring, capturing the food item and weight using a camera and scale to provide richer insight to help teams reduce waste.

  • Rubies in the Rubble - ‘Condiments with a conscience’. Make relishes, ketchups and mayo sustainably, from ingredients that would otherwise go to waste, often for simply being the wrong shape, size or colour.

  • Snact - Save surplus fruit by turning it into tasty snacks, packed with all the nutrition of flawless fruit. Every snack saves one apple or banana from going to waste.

  • Deliciously Ella delis donate leftovers through Olio. In the first 4 months alone, Olio volunteers collected 4,442 items = around 888 kgs food, or 2,115 meals and 3,832 kg CO2 was diverted.

Olio - The Food Waste App

In 2018, there were 600,000 Olio users (UK & worldwide), who shared over ¾ million portions of food - the environmental equivalent of taking 2 million car miles off the road! But this only about 0.001% of the potential to reduce food waste. If billions were using Olio, the impact would be huge and powerful, says Co-Founder Tessa Clarke.

Start sharing:

  • Download the app -

  • Going on holiday, moving home, keen gardener, unwanted gifts, Airbnb leftovers, food in your home you won’t eat on time?

  • Take a photo of the item/s and upload to the app.

  • Neighbours within around 2 km radius/walking distance receive an alert to let them know what is available.

  • Arrange collection from your home, or a public space if you’d prefer.

  • People want all sorts of things - even just 2 lemons, and half of food items listed are requested in less than 2 hours. There is also a non-food section for toiletries, cosmetics, light bulbs, toys, furniture etc. All listings are free.

Oilio's Food Waste Heroes programme rescues and redistributing food from retailers, with 22,000 volunteers supporting the initiative, showing that people care and want to do something about it.

Olio is absolutely about stopping food waste but also about something a lot bigger than that, which is community. And I think communities have an enormous role to play in climate change mitigation.

Tessa Clarke - Co-Founder, Olio



Food Waste and Climate Change - Deliciously Ella Podcast (listen on Spotify)

The global food waste scandal - Tristram Stewate, TED Talk


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