“Food waste is an untapped resource”

29 October 2020, 09:40 AM
  • Britain’s food waste problem is an opportunity in disguise, says Jenny Costa, founder of Rubies in the Rubble
“Food waste is an untapped resource”

Jenny Costa, the founder of Rubies in the Rubble, a business that repurposes fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste into a range of preserves and condiments, grew up surrounded by brilliant examples of sustainability.

“I was brought up on a small farm in the west coast of Scotland, which was very sustainably-minded. We powered the farm using wind turbines and had our own water supply, and my mum was an avid gardener – she’d grow all of our fruit and vegetables and was so proud that we could have home grown produce the whole year round,” Jenny explains.

Anything that was produced in abundance was turned into a preserve – conserve, chutneys, ketchups – to ensure that each item’s value extended beyond its typical shelf life. “We had cattle on the farm, a pet pig which we ate and sheep - it felt very close to food, and for me it felt like a very normal childhood.”

However, after attending university where she studied mathematics, Jenny ended up at a hedge fund. After working there for two years, she began to question why she was really there, and discovered that it wasn’t about passion or purpose. “I realised that if they cut my pay in half I’d leave in a second.”

Food waste was an industry that Jenny stumbled into, but thanks to her childhood experiences it was a natural fit. “The reason for making preserves was seeing the huge scale of wasted fruit and vegetables with my own eyes and realising that it shouldn’t be called food waste as it had such value – it’s an untapped resource.”

The UK produces more than £19 billion worth of food waste each year. On a global scale, food loss and waste equates to a loss of $984 billion per year, according to circular economy charity WRAP.

Recognising the opportunity that existed in this wasted resource reminded Jenny of her mother’s garden. “This is on a very different scale, but if you grow your own food you know how much goes into it, and you want to cherish that.”

Jenny’s steps for being proactive about food waste:

    • To start, it’s a question of recognising what you do as a business and what your purpose is – how you’re going to start making change
    • Bringing along the consumer on that journey is vital. Unless you’re open to allowing consumers to be part of your journey you can run the risk of becoming part of the game of greenwashing
    • Look at your supply chain, how you’re producing things, how you get it to your consumer, and the end result of the product - where does it go at the end of its life?
    • Embed this purpose and your impact into the foundations of your company

For more exclusive insight from sustainability pioneers, download your free copy of A Sustainable Future 2020, produced in partnership with Speciality & Fine Food Fair.

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