French entrepreneur Louis-Alban Batard-Dupre is the co-founder of food rescue service Yindii, which allows shops and restaurants to reduce their food waste by offering their unsold food at a discount. We spoke to him about the environmental impact of food waste and how we can tackle the issue head on.
What sparked the idea for Yindii?
When I came to Thailand...I started volunteering for [food waste rescue charity] SOS. They provide 2.5 million meals [to people in need annually]. Most of the people that give food are huge companies; [SOS] doesn’t pay for the food—[the companies] save money because destruction has a cost—but nobody pays them...so I tried to help find new ways of funding and cool ways of marketing to be more sustainable. They have a big impact on feeding people...but they could not go to a pastry shop that has five pieces of cake at the end of the day, and they were starting to refuse stores because it’s too little quantity or it’s not on their route.
What has the reaction to Yindii been like so far?
Everyone feels like they have something to win, whether it’s a new client and covering the cost, or eating delicious food at cheap prices.
What obstacles have you faced?
There is a big challenge about how Thai people view food waste as something dirty, or that having food left over suggests you are not a successful company; we need to change that mentality and say nobody is zero waste, it doesn’t exist.
What impact does food waste have?
It has three big impacts: one is human—the UN figures are very clear: if we could grab 25 percent of that surplus food, we could feed all of the hungry people around the world. The second is economic: if you throw food away, it means you’re not selling it. [The third is] environmental. Globally, around one-third of food ends up in the trash. When you throw something out, you throw all of the resources that have been used to create and transport those products... The Food and Agricultural Organisation measured that approximately eight percent of the CO2 produced by humans every year comes from food waste. Airlines account for [just over] two percent, so food waste is [almost] four times that. In Bangkok, one study announced that only two percent [of food waste] is properly recycled, the rest is thrown to land fills or in the river... [where it] decomposes and produces methane, it is a disaster. Methane is 25-to-30 percent more impactful on global warming than CO2.
How can we tackle this problem?
Finishing your plate or asking for takeaway at a restaurant is [easy to do], so I truly believe that food waste is something that can be tackled. We’re not here to shame people about waste. We’re just making it easy to do the first step towards more sustainability...We need to raise awareness so people start reducing their consumption, then it will move from the bottom up. There’s a [local] brand that I like called Saxo-Siam that gets food waste and turns it into fertilizer [and insect protein for feedstock]—this is what food should be, a natural cycle...it’s zero landfill, zero emission, you feed animals, and you can feed those insects to [livestock].
How impactful can food rescue be?
For every three kilos of food that you rescue, an estimated 4.5 kilos of CO2 is rescued.
What are your plans for the future of Yindii?
We [plan to add] a donation option for SOS with our orders. We also want our own fleet of electric scooters because we want to be zero emission. We’re building an app, too. Visit www.yindii.co to find out more.