Posted on Wednesday, 7ᵗʰ April, 2021
With the pressure on to reduce costs, minimising waste is the aim of every chef and commercial kitchen. But while everyone does their best, surplus food at the end of the day is sometimes inevitable.
Venues have developed their own methods of dealing with excess food but, regrettably, it often ends up in the bin. It’s a problem that a new Australian app, Y Waste, is addressing. We spoke with the app’s founder, Ian Price, to find out how the platform is meeting the needs of busy kitchens and hungry people.
Q. What was the inspiration behind the development of the Y Waste app?
A. I thought Australia was ripe for it. The ABC had just started its ‘War on Waste’ series and I knew that times were changing. I think the ABC programme really surprised a lot of people on what we’re doing in this country. We’re a little bit behind the rest of the world.
If you look on the political side of things, there’s yet to be any legislation dealing with food waste. In France, for example, supermarkets get fined if they throw away food. In France, Holland and the US, they also provide extra tax benefits for outlets that don’t throw food away, not just the ability to write it off against your income. It gives an incentive to donate food.
Here, it’s easier to throw it away than donate because all you can write off is the cost price.
Q. What exactly does the app do?
A. Y Waste is a food donation and distribution platform that brings together surplus food and people in need. It targets end-of-day unsold food and provides a reliable, real-time connection between food services, charities and people in need of food relief.
Q. How is Y Waste different from other surplus food programmes?
A. When I looked into the way food is donated in Australia, I saw it relied on a physical presence from volunteers, in particular. If there’s a resource charities don’t have enough of, it’s volunteers—and they’re never around after 5pm.
What we do is bring the person who ends up eating that food to the venue. In a way, you could say Y Waste is a crowdsourced platform because you skip the whole area of the intermediary, the storage and the transportation.
Charities are doing a great job. But with the scarce resources they have, they can’t go out and pick up hot food because it won’t keep for long and they won’t have time to distribute it.
I wanted to create a tool that would avoid all that, but work with charities to add value to their organisation. We’re not competing with charities in any way. On the contrary, we’re there to help them help more people.
Q. Just how serious is the issue of food waste in Australia?
A. According to the 2019 National Food Baseline Final Assessment Report, 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in total in Australia each year. Hospitality and foodservice accounts for 25%—which amounts to 1,825,000 tonnes the total food waste.
Q. What are the benefits to food venues of a partnership with Y Waste?
A. Well, there is a clean conscience that your perfectly edible food is not going into the bin but, instead, is going to someone who needs it.
We give food venues two ways to participate; one where they can post and sell their excess end-of-day food and the other where they can donate it. The process is the same for both ways to participate but the people who can receive donated food are vetted by charities as being food insecure. It helps the local community but also has immense corporate social responsibility value for the venue.
The app gives venues the freedom to decide what to make available and it gives people dignity through freedom of choice. You’ll only have people coming who have claimed a meal, and no more than that, so you won’t have a queue of people who leave empty handed.
Q. What’s the difference between donating meals and selling them at a discount?
A. When you purchase food on the platform, we call them ‘magic portions’. The pick up time is the end of the business day. The venue won’t know what food they’ll have left over until that time, so that means the customer won’t know exactly what they’ll receive.
It has the same net effect as donating; food is not going into the bin—it’s going into someone’s mouth.
The magic portion meals are priced at a minimum 50% discount. The merchant can adjust it further during the day. If they haven’t had many customers that day and they have lots of food left over, they might knock off an additional 10%. Every time a merchant varies the number of available portions or the price, a push notification is sent to people within five kilometres of the shop, so it can be used to attract customers.
When we contact venues and introduce them to the app, we find most of them prefer to donate rather than sell meals. They really want to help their communities. If you sell a meal for half price or donate it, it’s the same write off on your books.
But when you donate, it leaves you with a better feeling because you know the meal has gone to someone who really needs it and would otherwise be going hungry.
Q. Are there any costs to food venues for their involvement?
A. We are charging a cut on the food that is sold. If it’s donated, for now, it’s free. We take 20% of any sales but we also cover the costs associated with payment gateways.
We provide the data venues need for tax purposes, whether they are selling magic portions, donating or both. We want to make it as automated as possible.
Q. What action can UFS customers take right now if they’d like to get involved?
A. Fill out the online sign up form at ywasteapp.com and become part of the movement! We will create your account and you’re good to go. The motivation simply needs to be to reduce food waste and reduce hunger.
Q. What future plans does Y Waste have for the app and the programme?
A. Together, Y Waste App and our charity partner, Foodbank Australia, have distributed more than 55,000 donated meals so far.
My plan is to extend this overseas. We are already in Indonesia, working with Foodbank Indonesia. I think the future for us is as a pure donation platform, supporting charities to stamp out food insecurity.