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Waste Not, Want Not: Zero Food Waste UCL

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Nikita Joshi, the current project leader for UCL’s Zero Food Waste Society, gives us the lowdown on London’s food waste problem and what’s being done to tackle it.


How did you get involved in Zero Food Waste?

I was inspired by something I saw in my hometown, in Illinois, USA; there was a lady who would come into the local bakery every morning, take all of their freshly made bagels, and bring them to the local homeless shelter for veterans. I saw her doing that every day and I thought, why don’t I do that here in London? There are outside organisations like Olio and Oddbox who work with companies such as Pret a Manger and Planet Organic, but we work with university cafes which often get overlooked. In our first month of collecting, we saved over 800 pieces of food on campus.

So how does it work?

A shift with us involves meeting us at a certain point on campus, and then we go around to all the cafes that we’re collecting from that day and pack all the food in freezer bags, so it can be safe for transport. We partner with charities and homeless shelters that are nearby, so the food isn’t spoilt by the time it gets where it needs to be. Then when we get there we help them pack it away in their refrigerators so the people that live there or use it can come and get the food as and when they need it. Currently, our shifts run on Fridays, across three different slots, 15:45, 17:15, and 19:00, and each shift usually lasts around an hour. We’re starting to run shifts on Sundays at 17:15, and we need a lot of volunteers to  help out!

What are your plans for the future of the society?

We’re going to start partnering with UCL events, so every time there’s a big event such as an awards ceremony, there’s always a lot of food that goes to waste, and unfortunately we can’t donate it because its fresh and would spoil by the time we get it where it needs to be, but what we came up with is that students should be able to eat it either very cheaply or for free, and that it shouldn’t go to waste. We’re planning to remove the food from the events and set it up in an open area on campus so that students can come and get a meal.

Zero Waste UCL’s top tips on how to reduce waste as an individual:

1. Buy ‘ugly’ produce

2. Don’t buy more than you need

3. Join groups like Zero Food Waste UCL or start up your own society at your university!

4. Check out organisations such as these:

5. Olio

Zero Food Waste UCL was launched in 2018 by founder Diego Garcia Vega and project leader Camila Montesinos. 

To join Zero Food Waste UCL, sign up here, and make sure to follow them on  Facebook and Instagram.

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