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Save money and the planet: your ultimate guide to fighting food waste in Dublin


More than 800,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away a year nationally

More than 800,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away a year nationally

More than 800,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away a year nationally

The average Dublin household has a lot on its plate – a post-pandemic economy, the cost-of-living crisis and the effects of climate change staring them in the face.

Churning out more waste is the last thing this city needs. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reporting that more than 800,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away in the country each year, how does one deal with food waste more effectively?

To answer this question best, we rounded up some of Dublin’s favourite ways to fight food waste:

Olio – Dublin’s unseen food waste heroes

Two Fridays ago, patrons at the Tesco in Leonards Corner, Dublin, would have noticed Alec Weldon heaving under the weight of two giant boxes of Cavendish bananas and a satchel struggling to contain a large bag of rooster potatoes.

Alec is a food waste hero with Olio, an app that connects people with surplus food to those who need them. Twice a week, he heads to the nearest supermarket after 9pm to collect food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Olio has 28,000 active users in Dublin, a few like Alec have been trained in food rescue to allow them to collect and distribute food on a weekly basis: “At this point, it just doesn’t make any ethical or practical sense to be throwing food away. We fly this food to us from all over the world just to throw it in the bin. We can’t let that happen any more.”

Co-founder of Olio, Tessa Clarke, points out that 25pc of food waste in Ireland comes from the home. The app has a hyper-local network that allows the local community work with each other to make use of excess food.

“Food waste during a cost-of-living crisis is completely immoral and it’s important to work harder than ever to combat it," she says. “The average person on Olio is saving €50 a month, and some people an awful lot more. While food distribution is not the solution to food poverty, it certainly can play a very helpful role in getting food to people when they need it.”

FoodCloud – a homegrown solution

Two Trinity College Dublin students Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien were brought together by their shared dislike of food waste. Set up in 2013, FoodCloud is a non-profit that used technology and warehousing to redistribute more than 39 million meals in 2021 alone.

“As food and fuel costs rise, it’s not easy for charities to deliver their food services. Demand for food from the community sector is likely to grow as we continue to see the immediate impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. We use our resources to connect a network of over 650 charities in Ireland from homeless shelters and youth clubs to women’s refuges and elderly centres,” the founders say.

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FoodCloud has found that surplus food waste has the potential to create and maintain community connections while offering support to the businesses that come on board. Most recently, Aldi renewed its Food for Good campaign with the company to let shoppers buy and donate non-perishable foods at its 153 stores around the nation.

“We’re pushing for a circular economy. Through the power of shared food, we are getting all stakeholders around food waste to do their part to save food from being wasted when people need it the most,” FoodCloud says.

TooGoodToGo – championing smaller businesses

TooGoodToGo has covered a lot of ground in Dublin since it was introduced in the city a year ago. With 200,000 people having downloaded the app, it allows everyone from your local café, butcher or greengrocer to sell food they would have thrown away for a much reduced price.

As one of the first launch partners, the KC Peaches cafe chain now manages to prevent almost 100 bags of food a week being thrown away.

Philippa Van Welie, the chain’s head of marketing, says: “We’ve always been mindful of food waste. Before Covid, we knew how much food to prepare to minimise what was left over but the pandemic made everything much more unpredictable. This has been an extremely rewarding way to work around that.”

The app comes with an added element of mystery. Customers pay €4 for a surprise bag worth €15. What’s in the bag? It depends on the restaurant or café you opt for.

“This is particularly important for Dublin,” app co-founder Jamie Crummie says, “Given the huge workforce in the city, there are lots of smaller businesses that have been severely affected by the pandemic. The very fact of having to waste food would really affect their bottom line because they’re already so severely affected. We enable them to recover some costs.”

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