Will people pay money for food that a restaurant was just going to throw away? A new app called Too Good To Go is betting on it. The app takes unused food from restaurants that would otherwise throw it out and sells it directly to hungry bargain-seekers, the Mirror reports.
Though originally launched in Denmark, the app is set to go live in London soon, with 95 restaurants already signed up. App users order meals from eateries nearby and pick the food up themselves during a specified collection window; prices range from £2 to £3.80 (or about $2.60 to $5) per meal.
According to the app’s co-creator Chris Wilson, it’s a mutually beneficial system: Restaurants turn trash into profits, and diners get restaurant food at a fraction of the menu price. “It costs restaurants on average 97p for every meal they throw away so we are saving them that expense and giving them extra and we provide them with all packaging so they have recyclable and eco-friendly boxes,” he tells the Evening Standard.
Similar apps have been cropping up around the world, all with the same mission: to reduce food waste, a 1.3 billion ton problem according to the United Nations. A London-based startup called Winnow is aiming to cut back on the problem in restaurant kitchens by offering chefs insights into how they waste various ingredients.
Dozens of other entrepreneurs and nonprofits have been working to solve the problem, too — by turning blemished fruits and veggies into drinkable juice, or recycling food byproducts (like coffee grounds and spent grains).
In France, lawmakers have worked to reduce food waste by banning supermarkets from discarding unsold food. A new Italian law aims to reduce waste by encouraging businesses to donate or give away food past its sell-by date (businesses were previously sanctioned for doing just that).
The U.S. utilizes programs like the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which encourage companies and organizations to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to waste, and protects them from criminal and civil liability for doing so. (There are also tax incentives for donating unused food in America).
Yet food waste remains a huge problem in the U.S., where an estimated $165 billion worth of food goes uneaten each year. Lawmakers are currently working to reduce that number with legislation like the Food Recovery Act, which would educate consumers about food waste and establish an Office of Food Recovery at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dedicated to measuring and reducing food waste.
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