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How one Toronto tech startup is cutting food waste — and your dinner tab

How one Toronto tech startup is cutting food waste — and your dinner tab

Josh and Ben Walters are proving that a restaurant’s trash can be delectable treasure.

The Toronto cousins have devised a high-tech solution to Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem. Their creation, Feedback App, connects people with nearby restaurants that are about to throw away unsold food and offers it up at a discount.

Feedback, which already has more than 7,500 customers, has also paired up with organizations like Second Harvest, donating a meal to those in need when orders are placed.

“We thought it would be nice to actually reward them with donating a meal on their behalf once they use the app a certain number of times,” Josh Walters said. “I think we (donated) almost over 700 meals in this first few weeks.”

The idea came to Walters after eating late-night pizza on a trip to Italy. The owner of the shop sold him slices at a discount because the store was closing and the food was going to be tossed in the trash anyway.

“It sort of clicked that restaurant owners must face this challenge all the time, where they have leftover food, they’re closing for the night, they don’t want to throw it out — but no one is there to buy it,” said Walters. “As soon as you start to notice (food waste), you can’t stop. It’s everywhere.”

According to the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, billions of dollars of food is wasted annually in Canada. This poses a “significant threat to our climate-change progress,” the report said, because the materials emit methane when they break down in landfills. Methane is 25 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide.

Fifty-three per cent of food waste is attributed to “the supply chain where food is grown, processed, transported and sold,” including restaurants, the report said. The other 47 per cent is from households.

While the Waste-Free Ontario plan includes suggestions like banning residents from throwing out food and organic waste in regular trash bags, efforts like the Feedback App offer a more immediate solution for restaurants. Feedback also helps their bottom line by bringing in revenue that would otherwise be lost.

Feedback launched in October, and so far 45 restaurants in downtown Toronto have joined.

One partner is Pai, which serves northern Thai food downtown. The restaurant’s Doanna Bugash is in charge of daily operations with Feedback and said food waste is a big concern for businesses like theirs.

“It’s something that restaurants have to be very aware of,” she said.