What does practical circular economy action look like? In the lead up to the launch of Planet Ark’s Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub), we are sharing inspiring stories from the individuals, businesses and community groups that are implementing circular economy principles in Australia.
This is a sneak peak of a case study that will be featured on the ACE Hub website when it launches on November 24 — follow our ACE Hub communications to read the full story and to stay up to date with other developments of the Hub.
Founded in 2014, Yume Food reduces waste by making use of quality surplus food. In the food industry there are a myriad of reasons quality surplus food might not make it to its destination: new marketing, cancelled orders, incorrect or damaged packaging, to name a few. This food is perfectly suitable for human consumption but with no simple solution, it would likely go to animal feed or lower down the waste hierarchy to things like composting or landfill.
Enter: Yume Food, a business that has already saved over two million kilograms of food from ending up in landfill. Yume is an online marketplace which connects businesses that have quality surplus food with those who can purchase this food. We caught up with Yume’s founder and CEO, Katy Barfield, to learn more about the Yume story.
Who are you and what does your organisation do?
I grew up in the countryside in England with wildlife all around me. And I had a deep, deep connection with the planet; I was one of those slightly odd kids that would lie on their back in the garden aged five to just look at the stars for hours and hours. I've always been aware of how incredibly small we are on this majestic planet of ours and I'm really quite horrified by the way we treat our planet, how we take it for granted. We look at it as an infinite resource when it is anything but that. It is finite.
Yume’s vision is a world without waste. Everything that we do is to reduce food waste in the food system and that is predominantly what we exist for. Every time a transaction happens on the online marketplace, which is Yume Food, then there is food that is being diverted away from going to waste. So we exist right at the very top of the food waste hierarchy.
What problem/opportunity did you identify within the linear economy?
I owned a little bar in Melbourne. I bought this really rundown, backpackers bar and me and my partner transformed it into this little underground jazz bar. We had a chef and he'd make food and it was really quite cool. But one of the things that wasn't so cool about it is that you write a menu, then the chef buys in product for the menu, but then one dish doesn't sell very well, and I remember just seeing him scrapping food directly from the fridge that had not been used into the bin. The lightbulb moment was, ‘Oh my goodness, we're tiny little bar that seats 50 and if this is happening here and there’s 40,000 cafes and restaurants, imagine how much waste is going on every day’.
When I had the idea for Yume was really through my experience as founding CEO of [food rescue service] Second Bite … Second Bite was up and running and there was a lot going on in food rescue so I felt that I could step away and it was going to be in good hands and continue to grow and provide that service for people in need. I wanted to go and explore other solutions for food waste because I knew food rescue was not going to be able to do it all; There’s just too much [food waste] and there's a lot of product that's not necessarily suitable for donation and there's also times when people need to see a return on that product. I met farmers who were leaving their farm…because they couldn't make ends meet through their crops and specifications. So I wanted to find solutions for them as well, that's where the catalyst for Yume came from.
How are you building a circular solution?
We've had to engage in everything from government to corporate to not to profit, you name it, we've collaborated right across the supply chain. The multinational manufacturers who, when we first went knocking on their door, said, ‘We don't have a problem’. We started working with them and we gained their trust … We worked very hard over a number of years to gain the trust of a myriad of multinational manufacturers and then second tier manufacturers and smaller independent manufacturers. Working with primary producers [is] a big passion of mine — [from] small-scale free-range pork producers through to salmon producers through to companies that do canned peaches, canned apricots, etc. and then all the by-products that flow from that.
We collaborated right across the food industry when it came to our suppliers. [From] people who have product that was due to go to export but for whatever reason had been stopped, through packaging mislabelling or whatever it might be, and then it's stranded stock that's going to go to waste; Through to logistics companies that also end up with stranded stock and stock that gets damaged but is perfectly safe and to eat; Right through to the buyers — everything from airline lounges to industrial caterers to mom and pop pub groups that have bought food.
I think if you look to collaborate with open arms to choose your partners carefully — make sure you've definitely got that values alignment and that you're both on the same page — then these collaborations can be really successful.
The ACE Hub officially launches on November 24 with an online event that will be live broadcast from the Sydney Opera House. Join us for a morning of talks from some of the brightest minds in the Australian and international Circular Economy space. Head here for more information and to secure your ticket.