Waste not want not: Apps offer path to reducing food waste

Josh Dye
Kenneth Rodrigueza is happy not to throw out his doughnuts.
Kenneth Rodrigueza is happy not to throw out his doughnuts.  Photo: Steven Siewert

Kenneth Rodrigueza hates tossing his hand-crafted doughnuts in the bin, but some days he's forced to throw as many as 50 unsold treats in the rubbish. 

Now the owner of Donut Papi in Redfern has partnered with a new mobile phone app that pledges to "rescue delicious food and fight food waste". 

The app, Bring Me Home, enables restaurants to upload surplus food for sale at a discounted rate for customers to order and collect within a certain window of time. 

Cheap next-day doughnuts help reduce food waste

Lyle Chan uses apps to reduced price find food that would otherwise end up being thrown away.

Donut Papi is among a handful of restaurants to have joined Bring Me Home after its recent launch in Sydney following 18 months of operation in Melbourne. 

While a box of six large doughnuts from Mr Rodrigueza's shop would normally cost $35 if purchased fresh, customers can snag the box for $9.90 if purchased the following day. 

"They're still OK the next day, we just can't sell them in-store with a full price because we only sell fresh doughnuts daily." Mr Rodrigueza says. 

A box of six donuts from yesterday costs $9.90 instead of $35 if they're fresh.
A box of six donuts from yesterday costs $9.90 instead of $35 if they're fresh.  Photo: Steven Siewert

"Initially we were worried selling rescued doughnuts would taint our brand but we're more than happy to place them in someone's hands rather than landfill." 

Food charity OzHarvest says a third of all food produced globally is wasted. Another food charity Foodbank says 3.2 million tonnes of food ends up in Australian landfill each year.

Juliette Anich is a lecturer at RMIT University and is working on a research project in collaboration with YWaste, a similar app to Bring Me Home. 

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Ms Anich says up to 40 per cent of food at some restaurants can go to waste, so any amount that's saved is positive. 

"The proprietors we've spoken to are eager to see stuff not wasted and help their local communities," she says. 

Bring Me Home says 6300 meals, equating to more than three tonnes of food, have been rescued by the app since August 2018. 

The apps are among a growing number of tech-based startups fighting food waste. Another example, Olio, connects neighbours who can share leftover food instead of throwing it away. Meanwhile Yume is fighting the same fight against landfill, connecting buyers with wholesale suppliers. 

Bring Me Home founder Jane Kou says it has been a challenge changing people's mindsets. 

"Food rescue was a taboo [topic] because people think when it comes to food rescue you're dumpster diving. We had to educate people and change their perception to understand what food waste means.

"It's just unsold food at the end of the day, the quality is still there." 

Composer Lyle Chan is a user of the app and applauds its potential to help the environment. 

"We joke we're in one of the most recyclable industries - Beethoven wrote a piece of music and it's still used 200 years later," Mr Chan says. 

"I think it's a way to take the pressure off food retailers - they never want to admit they're throwing away food. The last thing a chain wants to say is 'sold out'."