Reduce your food waste using your smartphone – here’s how

Chart showing food waste around the world.

  • 931 million tons of food are wasted each year, contributing between 8% and 10% of global carbon emissions, estimates the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • These smartphone apps help shoppers, grocery stores, restaurants, and food manufacturers reduce food waste.
  • Governments are increasingly introducing policies to tackle food waste, which costs the world $1 trillion a year.

Food waste is a growing problem globally. About a third of the world’s food is wasted or lost, according to WWF, with huge impacts for people, planet and economy.

More … than 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, according to the World Food Program.

And the 931 million tonnes of food that is wasted each year creates between 8% and 10% of global carbon emissions, according to estimates by the United Nations Environment Programme.

So what can be done to solve this problem? Technology is a solution. Around the world, smartphone apps are encouraging people to change their approach to food waste. Here are three.

1. One-click half-price food

In Egypt, an app called Tekeya allows bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores and dessert shops to sell their fresh unsold products at half price. This means a great deal for shoppers, who use Tekeya’s free app to browse and buy discounted food near them.

It also means more profit for stores and restaurants, increasing sales and reducing waste disposal costs. Tekeya users can also use the app to donate free meals to charities.

In 2021, Tekeya says it managed to save around 40,000 meals, which equates to 85 tons of CO2.

2. Leftover food collected

In the UK, a similar app called Too good to leave allows shoppers to purchase and collect surplus food at discounted prices from local restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and food manufacturers.

Food is sold in mixed bags. “You won’t know exactly what’s in your order until you pick it up – it’s all part of the surprise,” the company says.

More than 20,000 grocery stores are using the app to reduce their food waste and nearly nine million shoppers are using the app to buy discounted food, with 12 million bags of food avoided so far , according to Too Good To Go.

Managed by Mette Lykke, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leaderthe company also tries to educate people on the difference between “best before” and “use by” labels on food, to avoid unnecessary waste.

3. Neighborhood Food Sharing

Olio is a free app that lets you share food with your neighbors, instead of wasting it. This can be food that needs to be consumed before a vacation or leftovers from catering, for example. Edible foods that have a best-before date can be shared.

App users post a photo and details of foods they don’t need, and can also browse other listings. Olio says nearly 6 million people in more than 60 countries have so far used its app to share more than 52 million servings of food.

Chart showing food waste around the world.

The world produces 931 million tonnes of food waste per year, according to the UN.

Image: Statista

What else can we do against food waste?

Not buying too much food is a way for all of us to reduce food waste, suggests BBC Good Food. Only buy what you can eat before the expiration date, he suggests.

The BBC also reports that leftover food can be used to make new dishes. For example, using old bread to make a breadcrumb topping.

With food waste costs $1 trillion a year worldwidegovernments are starting to act, according to Winnow Solutions, a technology company that helps commercial kitchens reduce food waste.

For example, in 2018, Australia pledged to halve its food waste by 2030. Funding food rescue charities was a key part of its policy.

In France, new laws have been introduced to reduce food waste. These include mandatory recycling for any business producing more than 10 tonnes of organic waste per year.

And in South Korea, food waste in the capital Seoul has fallen by 10% – 300 tons of food a day – in four years after the introduction of a new policy to charge households for recycling according to the amount of food they throw away.

Two billion people in the world are currently malnourished and according to some estimates we need 60% more food to feed the world’s population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of global water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has lagged behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increased investment in new agricultural technologies, and integration of local and regional initiatives to strengthen food security, the platform works with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

Learn more on the impact of Innovation with a Purpose and contact us to see how you can get involved.