Sep 8 2023

The unsung heroes of food waste reduction

Written by Orderly Marketing

At Orderly we specialise in cutting edge tech, from smart AI that’s predicting competitor activity to your food waste blind spots – but we still love a simple solution. Ultimately, as we explore the realm of food waste reduction, sometimes it’s the most obvious solutions that can drive us toward a more sustainable future.

From fridges to AI generated price tags – what are the unsung heroes of food waste reduction working harder to get things back in balance? 


Fridges can be smart or standard – but our favourite is when they are community based and a destination for food waste! In Geneva refrigerators are being placed in the streets for restaurant owners and cooks to provide food to the public thanks to the Free-Go non-profit. At a cost of $40,000 to run each year, this is supported by private groups and the city government. 

In the UK, we’re getting involved too. Environmental charity Hubbub is broadening the impact of its Community Fridge Network through food hub funding and started with 14 community fridges. Participants who used them reported adopting a more varied diet, discovering new recipes, and feeling more connected to their local community. Following the pilot, 50 more community fridges were then awarded food hub funding with support from Co-op and the Starbucks Foundation. In fact, Orderly customer Starbucks has committed £350,000 of funding to be made available to a further 50 community fridges across the UK. (The grants are being supported by the Starbucks® 5p cup charge which is applied when a customer chooses to use a single-use cup.)

There are plenty more grassroots initiatives just like this – and probably in your local area. The Village Greens Community Fridge in Prestwich Library is open to everyone who wants to share food that would otherwise have gone to waste, two Exeter libraries are addressing food waste with a community fridge initiative run by volunteers…there are more in Market Harborough and Sheffield and everywhere in between. 

Most of the food in these community fridges comes from businesses along the supply chain that have surplus food due to various reasons, such as small packaging errors or overstock issues. (Side note – do you suffer from this problem? Orderly could help you!)  This is a simple but very effective solution to a very old issue. 

But fridges aren’t just in communities – they are getting smarter in homes too. Smarter’s FridgeCam is designed to be a low-cost way to help consumers permanently alter their habits and start using up what they already have. A wireless camera based in the fridge takes a photo every time you close the door, which you can see in the click of an app. It also adds a way to track best-before dates, which is a great combo for consumers who we know from research tend to over buy yet under use. 

Best before labels 

A huge problem in food waste at a consumer level is the tricky beast of best before dates. We have written about these before, and how confused they can leave consumers. The fear of food quality deteriorating or risk to health indicated by a ‘Use By’ being confused with a best before label is a hotly debated subject. 

The problem of labelling food may seem minor, but a huge amount of food goes to waste each year. It is estimated that in the UK alone, around 10.2 million tonnes of food and drink are wasted annually after leaving the farm gate, worth almost €22 billion. This also represents a huge cost in carbon emissions, and water and fertiliser use, for food that is never eaten.  According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), millions of UK households run their fridges too warm, causing 4.5 million tonnes of food wastage.

Colour change labels like those made by Barcodiscount could help to reduce this mountain of waste, ultimately curbing emissions, and waste in other areas. Brands like Hellman’s have adopted the labels into their packaging, a simple but effective solution. 

Waste disposal 

The next device that’s simple but so effective is a food recycler. There are so many options, from composting to industrial bins that calculate food waste – but there are lots of more consumer options coming to market too, such as those by Sage, Vitamix and Breville. These are designed to transform any food scraps and leftovers into dry, odour-free ‘EcoChips’. These have two key benefits, one that they take up to 80 per cent less space in the bin, and that they can be used when planting in the garden. 

While we initially hoped that this magical device turned scraps into edible chips (the kind we serve with ketchup) these are chips for soil. The garden friendly mix is a long term gain, as it boosts soil through nitrogen and potassium for whatever you grow – (although there are some safety caveats around using the chips for soil in edible plants without curing.) 

All in all, an interesting machine that may become a household essential one day…

Dynamic price tags 

Consumers can’t have all the fun tracking food waste – and some cool tech in store makes food sustainability fun and engaging. We have loved looking at some of the cool tech entering the food waste and sustainability space, and we love Israeli start-up Wasteless and their dynamically changing price tags for use in shops and supermarkets. Designed to offer alternative pricing for shorter ‘use by’ dates, they have claimed to be able to reduce waste by a third while increasing revenues. 

AI Forecasting 

If only we could predict the future. With great forecasting- we are halfway there. Tools like Orderly’s Promotional Forecasting application is a cloud based application that streamlines the forecast capture process for limited time offers and seasonal campaigns. By streamlining forecast capture for food and beverage campaigns, there’s better visibility for stores and restaurants- which means less waste, and happier consumers. 

Simple is always best!

If you’re looking for a simple yet effective way to get a handle on food waste, improving profits and enhancing the experience for customers, speak to Orderly!