Spoiler Alert – New App Helps Businesses To Reduce Food Waste
Two MIT Sloan MBA students, Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina, have developed a new app that connects food that is about to be wasted with organisations and people that can use it. ‘Spoiler Alert’ is a free, downloadable app, where stores can post available surplus food (vegetables to start with), it is also accessed by nearby food rescue organisations, who can pick up the surplus and distribute to those who need it.
A pilot project run earlier this year involved eight organisations in Massachusetts and the students estimated that 8,000 tonnes of food was effectively circulated.
The app provides live and easy to access information on where there is available excess food. Spoiler Alert is an example of social entrepreneurship, but there’s quite clearly a business context to the food waste issue.
The US Department of Agriculture has reported that 14.5 per cent of Americans live with food instability, while around a third of all food in the US is annually wasted.
Food systems are not working and there is a need for initiatives that can help to reduce the surplus of food that is produced, but projects like Spoiler Alert suggest that there are significant opportunities for the re-utilisation of food that would otherwise become waste. In October 2014, Massachusetts legislated against the landfilling of food by commercial entities with excess food instead being sent to anaerobic digestion facilities.
Similar action has been taken in other places, the most recent of which came from the French government who passed a law in May that bans supermarkets from wasting their excess food. That legislation places the emphasis on business to resolve their surplus issues at both ends of the figurative pipe.
Food is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of where the linear economy has failed. The current system produces large quantities of surplus food and still a significant percentage of the world’s population lives without food security.
The circular economy model suggests that there should be opportunities to maximise the value of food and the nutrients involved at the agricultural, supply chain and ‘end of life’ phases. Spoiler Alert highlights some of those opportunities more clearly with new technology providing a pathway and mechanism by which excess food can be distributed. It’s a model with a social purpose, but it’s also a business opportunity.