As part of our sustainability series, we’re interviewing a host of people on sustainability within their industry and we were lucky enough to speak to the team at OLIO.

Today, we’ll be talking about food waste and how OLIO is helping to combat this in events and everyday lives.

Why is food waste so catastrophic for the environment?

If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the USA. Also, when food waste goes into landfills, it decomposes without access to oxygen, creating methane, which is 23 times more deadly than carbon dioxide—and is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. 

Food waste is also problematic in terms of water consumption because uneaten food accounts for 25% of all freshwater consumption globally, which is jaw-dropping when you realise that 2 billion people (a quarter of the World’s population) don’t have access to drinking water services. (Reference)

We are familiar with OLIO for personal use, where you can collect leftover food and other items from people local to you, but tell us a bit about how OLIO for events works?

The events industry is notoriously bad when it comes to food waste, wasting up to 10% of everything it produces (Reference). This is perfectly good food that shouldn’t be destined for landfill, hence why we’re so keen to work with event organisers to help save as much of this food as possible.

Event managers can contact us when they know they’re likely to have a lot of surplus food – we’ll then discuss the location, timings and allocate one of our 40,000 Food Waste Heroes to collect the donated food and redistribute it to the local community via the OLIO app. It’s that simple!

Sometimes we won’t know how much food we have to donate until the event day, does this matter?

No, we can provide as many volunteers as the event needs, meaning there is no issue with how much food your event donates; we are flexible.

So what happens to the food that is collected?

The donated food is taken home by OLIO Food Waste Heroes, who list it on the OLIO app and redistribute it to their neighbours. Over 50% of items listed on OLIO are requested within 21 minutes, making it a very efficient way to save food waste.

Fact or fiction: People get sued for donating food that makes someone sick—and what can event organisers do in terms of health and safety?

OLIO has developed an extremely robust and world-first food safety management system that ensures the safe and compliant redistribution of surplus food which was created in partnership with the relevant authorities. This allows peace of mind that food will reach the consumer in a safe condition and that your business is not exposed to any additional risk.

What small steps can we take to make a difference in reducing food waste?

Reducing your food waste doesn’t have to be a massive change in your day to day life, it can be as simple as changing small habits. For example, you and your freezer can become the dynamic duo of extending the shelf life of your everyday perishable foods. Putting your bread in the freezer can extend its life from a morbid 3-5 days to lasting months. The wonders of the freezer aren’t just limited to foods, milk is another household item with a short shelf life that can be saved by using a freezer.

Further, picking up little ‘tricks of the trade’ can be a step in the right direction. Who’d have known that wrapping celery in tinfoil would keep it crisper for longer? Well, now you do! Learning tricks like these are great ways to stop yourself from wasting a plethora of food.