Tell us about how Y Waste came to be.
It all started around the start of 2017, I started to think about where all the food goes at the end of the day. Growing up in a Taiwanese Australian family where Food Waste was a big NO from the conjectures about starving children in Africa, whenever the thought passed about wasting food, as a result of the experience in being born during WW2. I was lucky enough to never experience hunger and strife, but my parents would often share stories with me of their experiences during the war, and how little food they had at the time. Their experiences are engrained in me as values they instilled and highlighted to me within my upbringing that food is very precious, and that it was important to never waste food. So, this all helped me to really appreciate food as I was growing up from a personal point of view, and then as I grew up in Australia and realised how much food waste there was from what was left at the plate by day by day friends and acquaintances as a customer in cafes and restaurants, and food left after events, to then being in business and having friends and contacts who have been in the food and hospitality industry and through research and statistics I realised that on average 30% of food purchased ends up in the bins of restaurants, cafes and other food service businesses; that means that 30 portions of delicious food in 100 meals will end up in the bin, there was clearly a blind spot where food would just “be donated and eaten by someone else” in wishful thinking. It may not seem like much bit by bit but when you see it as a whole it is quite confronting. Through our partnership with Foodbank Australia we have learnt 1/3 of 18-28 year olds don’t have constant access to three square meals a day, yet tonnes and food are being discarded you know it’s not a matter of ‘not enough being produced’, but a lack of a centralised platform that can look after the privacy and social disclosure of those who need and the merchants who need to run a business and clear the excess stock in a way which enhances and protects their brand and allow them do the right thing. It’s ironic, because hunger is pervasive, and we can do something together to solve this. We studied both hospitality Mobile App and Online Redemption models such as Groupon, Meal Pal and Deliveroo as well as food rescues apps such as TGTG OLIO in Europe, where the zero waste trend was very much socially alive, and we thought, why not create this for Australians? On a personal leveI, professionally I have also been involved with outsourcing in the Philippines, and in some areas, the locals experience the daily struggles of trying to make ends meet, and some struggle to earn enough money to feed their children. You cannot unsee what you have seen in your life. This experience has also shaped my view on how precious food is, and it is not just a commodity and product, but a resource and a human right – something to nourish the body and satisfy the soul and an epitome of the hardwork behind the
people who put it together – the farmers, the transport behind it and most of all, the people who wake up early to make it.
Exactly how does it work?
Our commercial platform is very simple. Through Y Waste, retailers can post and sell their surplus stock at substantially discounted prices, which is a big win for customers. It’s also a considerable win for the retailer, who can generate extra revenue and save on wastage costs. The portion is a Mystery Portion so i.e. you would go to a Bakery and get a mixed assortment of freshly baked bread and
pastries depending on what is left, or go to a Sushi Takeaway like Sushi Hub and get a mixed boxed of Sushi, or a Sumo Salad and get a mixture of different salads and taste the rainbow of different salads all in one serving. This allows normally that last bit of sushi or salad that is perfectly fine but cannot be made into a complete ‘product’ rescued by the consumer. We have also recently worked on last minute pop ups for Sweet Pies, or Cakes, where merchants can notify consumers within the 5km radius of the shop of sudden food that needs saving, and allow nearby consumers business who happen to be in range when the merchant notify users that the food needs to be saved ASAP and a more accurate description of what is left exactly at that time so waste warriors are notified. These may be a one-off sudden stock clearance, or a mystery item a chef has come up with to reduce food waste like a quiet day and generally provide even more attractive discounts to prevent this food going into the bin for local food waste warrior who are passionate about reducing food waste and patronize and support these businesses long term and create a conversation within the community about reducing waste which we encourage and support consumers to bring their own containers and reducing single use plastic and container waste as well! With our partnership with FoodBank Australia, Y Waste is also to help connect retailers with excess food directly with people experiencing food insecurity. A unique code, issued by a certified charity, allows a person in need daily access to free food. The venue posts the food it wants to donate for the day, the recipient logs in with their code to reserve the food then collects the food direct from the store at the agreed time.
“Our goal is to eliminate all the challenges charities are having in connection with picking up the end of day surplus food at the food outlets.”
Putting the merchant in direct contact with the people experiencing food insecurity is a unique approach. The Y Waste team sees the role of the app as giving a helping hand to existing food charities. These include things like reliance on volunteers, distribution logistics (the end of the day tends to be the same for most stores, stretching resources) and storage, and reduce the social stigmata that comes with going to soup kitchen, food charities as it is the same as a pickup but it is an very serious issues as according to Foodbank Australia 1/3 of Australians aged between 18-28 are skipping one of three meals a day frequently, and it’s in this social media age we live in people are forgoing basic human needs whilst under the image conscious society we present but we can also use technology to allocate the food and resources to people in need as well.
Eighteen months later tell us about how big Y Waste is now, and what does the future hold for your app?
It’s very humbling to see over 550 merchants around Australia and 65,000 users have supported this cause in the last 18 months from the management of some large chains such as Sumo Salad, Muffin Break, Sushi Hub and some institutions such as our Partners Foodbank Australia, Sydney University Union and UNICEF as well as overseas partners and supporters. However it is still the beginning and I think Australia is still very early when it comes to embracing the zero food waste culture so we still have a long way to go. There has definitely been difficult and challenging moments from being written off very early by many people as “this would never work in Australia” but we use this as motivation and I think the more people know about our imitative other similar movements will come up and we will keep working hard, growing and doing our bit in the food waste conversation and keeping humble and staying hungry as always (literally and metaphorically hungry).
Ku-ring-gai was a pilot area for you when rolling out Y Waste – how have local businesses responded to the initiative?
Essentially at the beginning I just called up a few local businesses that I had frequented initially to the idea. Curry Monitor in Gordon and La Stazione Bakery in Turramurra next to the station have been mainstays in the community and were patient and kind and enough to listen when there was no app but just an idea. There remains much more room for many more many more merchants in the area and beyond for us to partner up with so we would love to talk the businesses who have any food waste whether its pastries or muffins leftover or help reduce some of that excess produce waste in the kitchen to come up with some mystery dishes like pizzas or brunches so we can attract local waste warriors to the business and enough a zero waste meal. There are other areas of zero waste we would love to move into and have some early conversations with, including pharmacies with Vitamins and Toiletries (i.e. Gordon Priceline) and Florists as well. The conversation of what Ywaste can be still provides plenty of
opportunities to help us create a community where we can solve the dumbest first world problem in food waste as well as conversations on advocating zero waste behavior which has already appeared in the form of Facebook groups such as Low Waste Living and Virtual Food Pantry and show the local community standing up against food waste, so together with the community, the local businesses we can be a hub of behavioral change in this zero food waste space.
What can Ku-ring-gai locals do to help your cause even further?
I think the ones who don’t mind saving $ and like to try different foods we would like them to invite them to download the app “search Ywaste on Android or iOS” and enjoy the app. Also we would love to work with local businesses, not just in food who have issues with wastage and share the same values to have a chat to u to see how we can partner, and more the waste warriors to look out with your eyes where there is food waste, and point to us where the merchants we can help and point them to us, but most importantly, understand food is a resource and be grateful and avoid food waste where we can. No one is perfect but if we all do our little bit with our behavior I would love to see this neighborhood as the leading food waste community in Sydney, if not the country.
You grew up in Ku-ring-gai, tell us about your connection to the area.
My family moved into Gordon in end of 1990 and they still live in the same house ever since. I also live in Gordon with my young family and went to school in Killara Public near the golf course and also Lindfield Public and attended Scouts in Gordon, and studied for my HSC in Gordon Library after they moved onto Pacific Hwy. These days I can be seen around the neighbourhood in the Gym, walking my baby son and around at the YWaste merchants saving food. My childhood was in the bushwalks around the leafy walks in the backs of golf courses or playing with other kids in the cul-de- sacs. Kuringai , more specifically Gordon is my past, current and future home. If you see me around, come and say Hi!
What are some things you love about the area? Any secret gems/favourite eateries etc?
I like how despite there has been major developments the fundamentals of the area and culture of the residents remain constant. There is always privacy and the same feel with Kuringgai over the decades, even though the people are different. I recommend dropping by Curry Monitor for a Mystery Curry on the app, across the road to Chicken Theory if you want a Salad or some Chicken Mac and Cheese, or grab three or four portions for the family dinner, and support a young family business like La Stazione Bakery in Turramurra who baked great breads and are a forward thinkers in sustainability as well! If you are a bit of a foodie and go out of the area a fair bit, I recommend the Pie Tin in Newtown, Oricco Chicken in Dulwich Hill, The Sausage Factory and Organic Produce in Surry Hills and Unggal Ammas in Pendle Hill and Raffaels Bakery in Haberfield