TIARCENTER and the Russian Association of Electronic Communications (RAEC) released a study on the emerging foodsharing market in Russia.
In Russia 17m tonnes of food waste is generated annually at the stages of storage, distribution and consumption. This is around 28% of all the municipal solid waste created in the country. Virtually all food waste (94%) ends up at garbage dumps and landfill sites where it goes on to pollute the air, soil and water table. That amount of food waste, 17m tonnes, gives off around 2.4m tonnes of methane (a potent greenhouse agent); not to mention other gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulphide.
Food waste is also great financial losses. According to the report, the cost of wasted food is estimated at over 1.6 trillion rubles ($25bn). Saving 17m tonnes of food would feed 30m people, in other words, more than the number of people in Russia living below the poverty line (20.9m people).
An effective way of preventing wastefulness where food is concerned may be foodsharing. Foodsharing is online services where food is distributed among members of a community. Members can post details of food available, how much there is and where it is, and negotiate transferring it, for free or otherwise, to anyone interested. The foods which foodsharing deals with may vary in what they are worth but what they all have in common is their expiring shelf-life. So, time is an essential factor (perfectly good food could go to waste in just a few days). It is none other than online services with their geolocation and instant messaging capabilities that can make this food as mobile as possible.
Developing the foodsharing model is completely in step with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will bring society a threefold benefit:
- The food saved goes to those who want it, including those in need.
- Natural and labor resources are used in a rational way (fewer resources overall are used and more people are fed as a result).
- The amount of food going to waste is reduced.
Foodsharing is expanding at a much slower rate than other segments of the sharing economy. It is seen primarily as charity rather than business. However, international experience (including Karma and Olio) shows that it is possible for social and commercial goals to be combined successfully.
During 2018, in Russia, thanks to foodsharing, approximately 7,000 tonnes of food was saved. According to RAEC and TIARCENTER, the amount of saved food can increase up to 1m tonnes by 2024. There are three key components to realizing the potential of foodsharing in Russia:
- Friendlier state regulation regarding the status of produce used in foodsharing and taxation. The study provides an outline of legal constraints hindering the development of foodsharing.
- The development of technological platforms to enable a rapid growth in the number of participants and provide the mobility needed for distributing food. In 2018-2019, several foodsharing startups emerged in Russia (such as EatyEat, Food Hide and Alisok), some of them have already attracted first investment.
- Food producers and distributors dedicated to making food management as efficient as possible. Some large retail chains and food producers (including Х5 Retail Group, Dixi, PepsiCo, Danone and Cargill) already cooperate with charity organizations that distribute food between those in need (the biggest Russian food bank Rus saves about 4,600 tonnes per year). However, less than one percent of food with expiring sell-by dates is successfully saved today.
The further development of foodsharing in Russia and reaching the potential of 1m tonnes of annually saved food could feed around 1.3m Russians in need, prevent the emission of 143,000 tonnes of methane, and enable business to be done with food with expiring shelf-lives with a total value of around 85bn rubles.
You can find the full text of the study here.