Today we got the opportunity to ask some questions on food waste to Somdip Dey, the developer of ReMe Basket, an android application, which reminds the user of the expiry date of the food items in the fridge. It also gives recipe suggestions based on the same items if the goods have gone past the date so that the food does not go to waste. Somdip provides his opinion and answers to the related questions as follows.
What are the current statistics on food waste?
According to World Hunger Education Services, in 2017 on an average 33% of 4 billion metric tons, which equates to 1.33 billion metric tons, of food production was wasted and 1 out of every 9 people on the planet went to bed empty stomach. Statistics from the same organization also mentions that an average family in the UK wastes around £700 because of food waste.
Do you believe that people are aware of these statistics?
Maybe some people do know, but the majority are not really aware of these statistics. Personally speaking, given today’s busy work-life schedule some details related to how much food I am eating or throwing in the bin without eating becomes really difficult to track. So, from my personal experience, I think some people regardless of knowing these pressing facts on food waste, are not really able to divert their energy and focus on solving the issue because of so many other personal and/or professional issues that catch our attention throughout the day.
What can be done to stop food waste on an individual level?
There are so many things that we can do, either small or big, to reduce food waste. First, we can start recording how much food we consume and how much we end up wasting. I know this thing is tedious in our given busy work-life routine, but once you start doing it for some time, it becomes natural and inherent to follow the schedule after some time. In this way, we can keep track of how much food we really need and we can just buy that much amount from next time instead. There are few apps which could help you to keep track of how much food you consume on a daily basis but most of them are not free to use. So, find any possible way to keep track o your food consumption, whichever way it feels natural or easy for you.
Second, we should keep track of the expiry date of the food items that we buy. Personally, sometimes I buy food and forget them in the fridge because of working overtime in the office or missing a dinner schedule at home. So, keeping track of food items and their expiry date is important because many times expired food items contribute to food waste and is one of the serious concerns related to this. You can use either a sticky note to put on top of the fridge to remind you some of the recent expiry dates so that you do not end up forgetting. You can also use apps that could remind you of this simple task. ReMe Basket is one such app, which could aid you in this and is the first of its kind to remind you a food item’s “gone-by” date.
Third, even if the food has gone by expiry date, do not just throw it in the bin. Sometimes food items are still edible even if they have gone past the shelf date. Have a look at the item and inspect it closely before binning it. You might be able to cook something from the item even after it has gone past shelf date.
Fourth, if you have got leftovers then do not just throw the leftover away. Share the leftovers with your friends and/or neighbors. There are some food banks in your local area who might accept such leftovers or you can use apps for this as well.
What is your plan for ReMe Basket in the future?
Right now, ReMe Basket can help an individual to keep track of expiry date and suggest recipes on the food items that are on the list with ease. But I am developing methodologies to introduce artificial intelligence to make this task much easier for an individual such that the app can also suggest the user on which food items to buy or not to buy as well. In 2014, I have also co-developed the world’s first crowd food sharing platform, and I am also planning to introduce the concept in ReMe Basket so that the user can share the food items with people in need easily through the app. At the moment I am pursuing Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Essex and thus finding time to develop these key features is tricky, given my busy schedule. But we can expect them to arrive in the application very soon.
Tell us more about the crowd-food-sharing platform? What happened to it?
In 2014, my colleagues and I at Codeepy, which was initially a hackathon group at the University of Manchester, co-developed SHARE.It, which was the world’s first crowd-food-sharing platform and we won a prize category at the 2014 Koding’s Global Hackathon. We won the 3Scale API award in the competition and one of the only hackathon teams from the UK to have won a prize in this prestigious global hackathon event. The application could search for nearby users who needed the leftover food and then provide location based pickup or food dropping services. Later we attracted some clients, who also bought private equity on the application. After that, we sold the app to them. Unfortunately, I am not being able to disclose their name in public.
Any last advice to conclude this article?
Although food waste seems like a huge issue in our modern society, where we still have so many people around the world going to bed starving or children suffering from malnutrition, yet many of us do not do anything about it. I think we all need to do our part to reduce food waste and improve lives. At the end, we are also the one who will be saving money in the long run if we do not overbuy or waste food. We have to start taking food waste seriously from now on, but baby steps can definitely take us a long way.