Reducing Food Waste in the Events Industry: An Interview with Michael Barsties of OLIO

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Michael Barsties, Head of the Food Waste Heroes Programme at OLIO, discusses how small actions can make a huge impact in reducing the amount of food waste used at corporate events.

Michael Barsties has been with food sharing app OLIO since the beginning. He created OLIO’s successful ‘Food Waste Heroes programme’, where volunteers collect surplus food from local businesses and share it with fellow OLIOers in their local communities so no good food goes to waste.

OLIO is committed to tackling food waste, an issue that is environmentally catastrophic with over one-third of all food produced being wasted and leading to huge greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if food waste were a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the USA.

To tackle food waste OLIO connects neighbours with each other and local businesses to share surplus food. OLIO is also committed to combatting food waste in the events industry. Following catered events, surplus food can be picked up and distributed to the local community using OLIO. Even offices and hotels can become zero food waste businesses by using OLIO.

As far as Michael is concerned, food waste is becoming more and more of a concern in the events industry.

“From my perspective, I obviously have a very strong focus on food waste but it’s something we at OLIO feel our customers are getting more and more concerned about as well, especially companies that book high-end events.

One of the big questions that everybody asks is what is happening with the surplus food if 400 people are invited and in the end, only 50 turned up. The other thing is non-food waste, so I’m talking about disposable waste from cups and plates and cutlery. That seems to be one of the most pressing issues in the events industry at the moment.

The real beauty of OLIO is that the service we are offering to businesses isn’t a face-to-face interaction with the catering staff or whoever handles the food, all they have to do is hand the food they don’t want to be wasted and they then hand it over to another person.

There is no filling out forms. There’s no delivering it to a building it or donating it. All they have to do is physically hand it over instead of putting it in the bin. I think that is a real advantage.”

With so much damage being done to the planet due to food waste and OLIO offering such a simple solution to make a change, Michael feels now is the time for businesses and event planners to start taking ownership of their own waste.

One of the things that I hear again and again is about accountability and taking ownership. That’s not just about your staff taking the food home. It’s about making these little actions that we can all do together that can have so much impact.”

And the impact OLIO has had on food waste since they started in 2015 is clear to see.

  •  1,038,273 OLIOers have joined the platform
  • 1,568,591 Portions of food have been shared
  • 4,059,012 Equivalent car miles saved
  • 33,762 OLIO volunteer Ambassadors and Food Waste Heroes
  • 49 Countries food has been successfully shared in

HeadBox is on a mission to reinvent the global events industry through technology, but we believe you can’t reinvent an industry without letting the outside in. HeadBox Connect brings together stories, experiences and learnings from a vast array of industries, with the sole purpose of inspiring you to deliver positive change in your industry to make brilliant things happen.

You can listen to the full recording of HeadBox Connect: A Guide to Planning Sustainable Events Podcast here and read all about the event here.

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