The app connects neighbours and volunteers with local businesses, so that surplus food can be given away, not thrown away.
“If you look at food waste in the UK, half of all food waste takes place in the home,” Clarke said. “So a typical family in this market is throwing away 20% of their weekly shop, which is £700 per family per year, which collectively adds up to £14 billion worth of perfectly good food being thrown away every year.”
Clarke continued: “OLIO exists to tackle the problem of food waste in the home and local community and we do that by connecting people with their neighbours so that you can give stuff away instead of throwing it away. So how it works is you just snap a photo of your spare food and add it to the app. Neighbours living nearby get an alert, they can then browse the listings and request what they want, and pop round and pick it up. OLIO is all about hyperlocal – it’s about connecting neighbours in real life.”
OLIO has grown to five million users in just over five years, and its impact has been widely recognised, most notably by the United Nations who highlighted OLIO as a beacon for the world, and by Vivatech who named OLIO a Next European Unicorn.
OLIO has made a major impact and Clarke is a champion of both the profits and the difference this has made.
“For too long we have put the burden of doing good onto charity,” explains Clarke. “Olio is a business, and often people are confused because they assume that if you are doing something good you must be a charity, and if you’re scaling and growing really fast, then you’re probably a business but having goodness knows what sort of negative externalities and I think that we are stuck in that really out-dated dichotomy, which is not helping any of us, and we’ve got to have this third pathway which is profit-with-purpose.”
Greed and excess have become obsessions, wrongly learned and toxic behaviours, and Clarke believes they can be replaced by human interactions and people doing more to reconnect with each other.
“If you think of the consumption-based economy, people are labouring incredibly hard to make all this shit that is destroying the planet and clutters up people’s homes,” added Clarke. “Everything about this is broken so if we can migrate our economy away from the consumption of things towards spending quality time with one another, and in many ways going back to the things that we have evolved to enjoy doing – singing, dancing, cooking, performing, caring for one another, caring for nature, then I firmly believe that we will all be healthier, happier and wealthier.”
I am delighted to welcome Tessa onto the show to learn more about the actions we can take to tackle food waste and reconnect with each other.