I use a food waste management app to get free food

  • I use Olio to get free food and find new owners for items I no longer want.
  • It’s an app against food waste, but users also donate clothes, books, and household items.
  • Olio has around 6.3 million users, its co-founder told Insider.

I’ve been using a food waste management app for a few months to get free food and find homes for items I no longer want.

Olio, a UK app that connects users with free meals, ingredients, clothing and household items, is rapidly gaining popularity.

People can use Olio to donate products they no longer want, including leftover ingredients, unwanted clothes, and books they’ve read.

Since I started using the app in May, I’ve collected foods including croissants, sandwiches, and long-lasting pantry items. I used Olio to find new homes for books I read, clothes I dislike, and sweet rice I realized I would never cook.

Screenshot of the Olio app

A screenshot of the lists on the Olio app.

Screenshot of the Olio app

By using Olio I saved money, but for me the main thing is to prevent food from being thrown away while it is still edible.

Many people use the app to donate items if they move house, but some use it to donate food before going on vacation, because they bought a product they found out they didn’t. dislike, or simply because they are having clearance.

But there is also another facet of Olio. Businesses such as retailers and cafes can pay to use Olio as a waste disposal service. A volunteer – dubbed a ‘food waste hero’ – collects items from a store as they near their best-before date. Olio says he has 63,000 food waste heroes, mostly in the UK.

All users must write a description, submit photos, and indicate when and where the product can be picked up.

For food, users also often indicate the expiry date. Sometimes the descriptions are detailed, while others are vague. I once used the app to collect what was simply listed as “croissants”. The user gave me his address, where I found 47 pastries waiting on his doorstep.

Other foods I collected include items from Amazon Fresh and Pret a Manger, as well as canned tea, cookies and soup from people who had a move or move.

Salad Olio Pret

A Pret a Manger salad that I picked up at Olio.

Grace Dean/Initiate

Everything on Olio is free. Users may not accept money or any other compensation in exchange for goods.

One important thing to remember is that business listings are usually because the food is about to expire. Prepackaged goods come with dates, but for some items – like croissants – it’s a question of whether they can be left safe for a few days.

After setting your approximate location on the app, Olio displays nearby items available to pick up. You can choose the distance you want to travel and filter to see the most recent announcements. Dozens of new items are added to Olio every day within the three-mile radius I use.

My profile on the Olio app

My profile on the Olio app.

Screenshot of the Olio app

Collecting and sharing items can seem a little scary at first. Your profile includes your first name and you don’t need to add a picture of yourself, but I think it makes you feel a bit more trustworthy when collecting items.

When you download an item, you define its own pickup location. While in many cases users have allowed people to pick them up from their homes, they can also set the pickup location as a public place.

After donating an item, both parties are asked to rate each other. Olio says users who don’t show up for collections could be kicked out of the app, and it’s easy to flag other users for misbehavior.

The app is different from Too Good To Go, which also works to fight food waste. It only contains business listings of the companies themselves and users retrieve them from the establishment in question. You also have to pay for these items, and they’re mostly done on a “magic bag” basis where you don’t know what you’ll get until you collect it.

Tessa Clarke, one of the company’s co-founders, told Insider she had a “lightbulb moment” in 2014 when she moved house and tried to donate uneaten food. The Olio application went online in July 2015.

Clarke says it now has 6.3 million registered users, up from 2.3 million in September 2020 and 4.7 million a year later. Half of the foods listed on the app are requested in about 20 minutes, she adds.

Information on my impact on the Olio app

Information on my impact on the Olio application.

Screenshot of the Olio app

There are also large numbers of Olio users in Singapore, Ireland and Mexico as well as the UK, Clarke said. He is also active in the United States.

Clarke said companies are partnering with Olio to go zero waste. She said these companies don’t have time to list their products themselves or turn to Olio after first trying to donate them to charity themselves.

Volunteering can be a long-term commitment, with some carers helping out occasionally and others collecting items several times a week. Volunteers can save up to 10% of the food they collect to redistribute, making it popular among students, Clarke said.

The app raised €43 million ($43 million) in a funding round last September.

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