At the end of the business day, a bakery may have a few leftover cupcakes, or a market may have made more boxes of fresh sushi than what was sold earlier at lunch. A food bank likely wouldn’t make the trip for such a small amount of food, so instead of going to someone in need, those items get tossed in the trash. But with the app Too Good To Go, you can reserve a “surprise bag” from one of those restaurants, and get whatever would have been thrown away at the end of the day for a discounted price.
In the U.S., between 30% and 40% of all food produced is wasted. Not only does that food get sent to landfill when it could have gone to a person, but also that food waste releases significant levels of methane into the atmosphere as it decomposes. Globally, food waste generates 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions. “We wanted to find a simple solution,” says Lucie Basch, cofounder of Too Good To Go, the winner of the apps category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas awards.
Unlike other food-waste saving apps that list specific menu items a customer can save from the trash, Too Good To Go’s simplicity is that you just get a grab bag of whatever the restaurant or store has on hand. A store may never know what items are destined for landfill at the end of the day, but packing any of those items into a one-price surprise bag for customers, Basch says, “is as simple as throwing away food.”
Too Good To Go launched in the United States in September 2020 (it first launched in Copenhagen in 2016) in New York and Boston. Already 500,000 people have signed up and nearly 1,500 stores have joined the app, saving nearly 200,000 meals from landfill in the U.S. alone. Across its 15 operating countries the app is saving 125,000 meals a day. During the pandemic, Basch says the app has also been a boon to restaurant owners, who can make additional revenue and attract new customers.
The app is now available in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, and will launch in San Francisco; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon before the summer. Basch says they plan to be in 10 U.S. cities by the end of 2021. “We think we can save more than 2 million meals from the trash in the U.S. in 2021 already,” she says. “That’s thousands of tons of emissions avoided.”