I Spent a Week Eating Discarded Restaurant Food. But Was It Really Going to Waste? | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

It’s 10 pm on a Wednesday night time and I’m standing in Blessed, a south London takeaway joint, half-listening to a fellow buyer speaking earnestly about Jesus. I’m nodding alongside, making an attempt to concentrate as reggae reverberates across the small yellow store entrance. But actually, all I can actually take into consideration is: What’s within the bag?

Today’s bag is blue plastic. A smiling man passes it over-the-counter. Only as soon as I extricate myself from the non secular lecture and get residence do I uncover what’s inside: Caribbean saltfish, white rice, greens, and a cup of thick, brown porridge.

All week, I’ve lived off mysterious packages like this one, handed over by cafés, takeaways, and eating places throughout London. Inside is meals as soon as destined for the bin. Instead, I’ve rescued it utilizing Too Good To Go, a Danish app that’s surging in recognition, promoting over 120 million meals final 12 months and increasing quick within the US. For 5 days, I made a decision to divert my weekly meals finances to eat completely by the app, paying between £3 and £6 (about $4 to $8) for meals that vary from a handful of desserts to an enormous field of groceries, in an try to know what a tech firm can educate me about meals waste in my very own metropolis.

Users who open the TGTG app are introduced with a listing of institutions that both have meals going spare proper now or count on to within the close to future. Provided is a short description of the restaurant, a worth, and a time slot. Users pay by the app, however this isn’t a supply service. Surprise baggage—prospects have solely a obscure thought of what’s inside earlier than they purchase—should be collected in particular person.

I begin my experiment at 9:30 on a Monday morning, within the glistening foyer of the Novotel Hotel, steps away from the River Thames. Of all of the breakfast choices out there the night time earlier than, this was essentially the most handy—en path to my workplace and providing a pickup slot which means I could make my 10 am assembly. When I say I’m right here for TGTG, a suited receptionist nods and gestures towards the breakfast buffet. This department of the Novotel is a £200-a-night resort, but employees don’t appear begrudging of the £4.50 entry payment I paid in alternate for leftover breakfast. A homeless charity tells me its purchasers just like the app for exactly that purpose; low-cost meals, with out the stigma. A server politely fingers over my white-plastic shock bag with two polystyrene packing containers inside, as if I’m another visitor.

I open the packing containers in my workplace. One is stuffed with mini pastries, whereas the opposite is overflowing with Full English. Two fried eggs sit atop a mountain of scrambled eggs. Four sausages jostle for house with a crowd of mushrooms. I diligently begin consuming—a chunk of chilly fried egg, a mouthful of mushrooms, all 4 sausages. I end with a croissant. This is sufficient to make me really feel intensely full, verging on sick, so I donate the croissants to the workplace kitchen and tip the remaining into the bin. This seems like a disappointing begin. I’m purported to be rescuing waste meals, not throwing it away.

Over the subsequent two days, I dwell like a forager in my metropolis, molding my days round pickups. I stroll and cycle to cafés, eating places, markets, supermarkets; to acquainted haunts and locations I’ve by no means observed. Some shock baggage final for just one meal, others will be stretched out for days. On Tuesday morning, my £3.59 shock bag features a small cake and a barely stale sourdough loaf, which gives breakfast for 3 extra days. When I am going again to the identical café the next week, with out utilizing the app, the loaf alone prices £6.95.

TGTG was based in Copenhagen in 2015 by a gaggle of Danish entrepreneurs who had been irked by how a lot meals was wasted by all-you-can-eat buffets. Their thought to repurpose that waste shortly took off, and the app’s remit expanded to incorporate eating places and supermarkets. A 12 months after the corporate was based, Mette Lykke was sitting on a bus when a lady confirmed her the app and the way it labored. She was so impressed, she reached out to the corporate to ask if she might assist. Lykke has now been CEO for six years.

“I just hate wasting resources,” she says. “It was just this win-win-win concept.” To her, the eating places win as a result of they receives a commission for meals they’d have in any other case thrown away; the client wins as a result of they get an excellent deal whereas concurrently discovering new locations; and the atmosphere wins as a result of, she says, meals waste contributes 10 % of our world greenhouse gasoline emissions. When thrown-away meals rots in a landfill, it releases methane into the ambiance—with properties and eating places the 2 largest contributors.

But the app doesn’t depart me with the impression I’m saving the planet. Instead, I really feel extra like I’m on a each day treasure hunt for discounted meals. On Wednesday, TGTG leads me to a railway arch which capabilities as a depot for the grocery supply app Gorillas. Before I’ve even uttered the phrases “Too Good To Go,” a youngster with an overgrown fringe emerges silently from the alleys of shelving models with this night’s bag: groceries, many nonetheless days away from expiring, that suspiciously add as much as create a complete meal for 2 folks. For £5.50, I obtain recent pasta, pesto, cream, bacon, leeks, and a bag of stir-fry greens, which my husband merges right into a single (scrumptious) pasta dish. It feels too handy to be real waste. Perhaps Gorillas is trying to transform me into its personal buyer? When I ask its guardian firm, Getir, how promoting meals properly in date helps fight meals waste, the corporate doesn’t reply to my electronic mail.

I’m nonetheless interested by my Gorillas expertise at lunchtime on Thursday as I observe the app’s instructions to the Wowshee falafel market stall, the place 14 others are already queuing down the road. A couple of informal conversations later, I understand I’m considered one of a minimum of 4 TGTG customers within the line. Seeing so many people in a single place once more makes me marvel if eating places are simply utilizing the app as a type of promoting. But Wowshee proprietor Ahmed El Shimi describes the advertising and marketing advantages as solely a “little bonus.” For him, the app’s fundamental draw is it helps reduce down waste. “We get to sell the product that we were going to throw away anyway,” he says. “And it saves the environment at the same time.” El Shimi, who says he sells round 20 shock baggage per day, estimates utilizing TGTG reduces the quantity of meals the stall wastes by round 60 %. When I pay £5 for 2 parts of falafel—which lasts for lunch and dinner—the enterprise receives £3.75 earlier than tax, El Shimi says. “It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.”

On Friday, my ultimate day of the experiment, all the pieces falls aside. I sleep badly and get up late. The loaf from earlier within the week is rock stable. I eat a number of mini apple pies for breakfast, which had been a part of a beneficiant £3.09 Morrisons grocery store haul the night time earlier than. Browsing the app, nothing appeals to me, and even when it did I’m too drained to face leaving the home to gather it. After 4 days of consuming nothing however waste meals, I crack and search solace in acquainted elements buried in my cabinet: two fried eggs on my favourite model of seeded brown bread.

TGTG just isn’t an answer for comfort. For me, the app is a solution for workplace lunch malaise. It pulled me out of my lazy routine whereas serving to me eat properly—in central London—for a £5 finances. In the queue for falafel, I met a fellow app person who informed me how, earlier than she found the app, she would eat the identical sandwich from the identical grocery store for lunch every single day. For folks with out entry to a kitchen, it provides a connection to an underworld of scorching meals going spare.