Oddbox: Rescuing Imperfect Produce to Tackle Food Waste
Every year in the United Kingdom, a staggering 4.5 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables go to waste. Surprisingly, this wastage occurs not only at the consumer level but also among growers, even before their produce reaches the market.
With its unique approach, Oddbox is saving these perfectly good but overlooked fruits and vegetables from destruction and delivering them to subscribers through a subscription service.
Let’s delve deeper and take a more in depth look into how Oddbox is spearheading the fight against food waste and making a significant difference.
Tackling Waste at the Root
Oddbox’s mission revolves around reducing fruit and vegetable wastage by actively reaching out to growers. By collaborating with these essential stakeholders, Oddbox identifies if any produce is going to waste and rescues it from becoming part of the staggering statistics.
The fruit and vegetables are then carefully boxed up and sent directly to Oddbox subscribers. Impressively, to date, their reach currently extends to approximately 70% of the UK, effectively covering a substantial portion of the country’s produce waste.
When the term “food waste” is mentioned, most people envision rotting apples, abandoned loaves of bread, and heaps of potato peelings in landfills. While this image represents a part of the problem, the CEO and co-founder of Oddbox highlights that food waste begins much earlier in the food chain.
In fact, the waste often starts at the very moment crops are planted and harvested. Consequently, Oddbox’s primary focus lies in combating food waste at the source, targeting wastage occurring during the crucial production stage.
The Grower-Led Model
Oddbox adopts a unique grower-led model, ensuring that they only rescue produce that has already been grown. This approach eliminates the creation of new demand, thereby minimising any potential negative impact on the environment.
Furthermore, it is essential to note that a significant portion of food waste happens during the production stage, where a staggering 1.2 billion tonnes of fruit and vegetables are discarded. However, the reasons behind this wastage are twofold, generally being due to product irregularities and surplus quantities.
The oddities of nature often render certain fruits and vegetables unfit for retailers’ strict cosmetic specifications. Whether on the smaller side, sporting an unusual shape or colour, or marked during the growing process, these perfectly edible produce items are deemed unsuitable for sale.
Astonishingly, these minor inconsistencies lead to the unnecessary disposal of vast quantities of food. However, Oddbox steps in to change this narrative by providing growers with an avenue to rescue their “odd” produce and prevent it from going to waste.
Surplus Quantities and Unforeseen Challenges
Sometimes, weather conditions result in unexpected bumper crops that exceed initial predictions. Alternatively, sudden order cancellations create surplus quantities that growers struggle to accommodate. In other instances, challenges related to demand forecasting leave growers with more produce than required.
These circumstances often lead to heartbreaking choices, where edible fruit and vegetables end up discarded instead of reaching consumers’ plates. Again, recognising this dilemma, Oddbox intervenes to help growers utilise their excess produce effectively, ensuring their hard work does not go to waste.
Uncovering Solutions through Collaboration
The complexity of the food waste issue prompted Oddbox to embark on an extensive exploration with growers and experts. Over a nine-month period, they partnered with sustainability experts at 3Keel to delve deeper into the root causes of farm-level food waste.
By working directly with growers, Oddbox sought to understand how their weekly rescue missions made a difference and, more importantly, identify additional ways they could contribute to the fight against food waste.
Furthermore, this collaborative effort highlights Oddbox’s commitment to continuously improving and expanding its successful and positive impact.
Beyond Waste Reduction
Oddbox’s efforts extend beyond reducing food waste. In collaboration with various charities, such as Fareshare, KIND, and City Harvest, Oddbox donates any surplus fruit and vegetables it has at the end of each week.
These donations not only combat waste but also provide nutritious food to those who need it most. To date, Oddbox has donated over 493 tonnes of fruit and vegetables since 2020, equivalent to an impressive 1,173,119 meals. By forging these partnerships, Oddbox amplifies its impact by addressing both food waste and food insecurity simultaneously.
The Climate Connection
Addressing food waste is not only crucial for combating hunger but also for mitigating climate change. Astonishingly, the environmental impact of food waste surpasses that of plastic waste by 248 times.
Recognising this, Project Drawdown, an esteemed resource for climate change solutions, identifies reducing food waste as the most critical measure to tackle this global challenge.
Farm-level food waste alone accounts for approximately 1.2 billion tonnes of wasted food annually, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Oddbox’s commitment to reducing waste aligns with this imperative, underscoring the urgency of their mission.
Oddbox has become a powerful force in the battle against food waste and hunger. By rescuing and delivering imperfect yet perfectly edible fruit and vegetables, they have crafted a unique subscription service that connects growers and consumers.
Through their grower-led model, Oddbox addresses food waste at its source and ensures that no additional demand is created. Furthermore, by collaborating with growers, they rescue surplus produce that would otherwise be discarded, mitigating the staggering amount of waste generated during the production stage. Additionally, their partnership with charitable organisations maximises their impact by providing nutritious meals to those facing food insecurity.
It is certainly clear that as Oddbox expands its reach, their multifaceted approach inspires hope for a more sustainable and equitable future, where less food goes to waste and more people have access to fresh and nourishing produce.
News Credits: How Oddbox is combatting food waste in the UK
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