Food waste is such a massive problem in London, as it is all over the UK, and as we’re trying to do our bit to live more sustainably, we want to shout out others who are tackling the problem. Like Tom Fletcher, who turns fruit and veg destined for the bin into juices with his company Rejuce.
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I live in Hackney Wick above my kitchen, which I built myself. When I started my company, Rejuce, I was spending so much time getting it off the ground that I realised it would make sense if I could live right by work. As for the area, I love Hackney! There is such a diverse group of people around and you’re surrounded by lots of creative people to collaborate with and take inspiration from.
What was the inspiration behind Rejuce?
I was inspired to start Rejuce when I was studying for my masters in environmental politics. I’ve always been interested in food and food waste from a political point of view. Even though I was a chef, I always thought it would be this area of the food industry that I would eventually move into.
My dissertation was on food waste in the UK, which took me all over the country to various supermarket and food waste disposal sites. During my research, I found that the biggest site for edible food waste was just behind the Olympic Stadium in Hackney Wick. This was actually one of the reasons why I choose Hackney for the site of my kitchen. When I saw the amount of food that was being wasted, I had so many questions, like: why is all this food being wasted and why is no one doing anything about it? I kept thinking about what could be done to solve these problems and to me, the solution seemed so simple.
Tell us a bit about your experience in participating in Richard Branson’s VOOM competition this year.
We actually heard about the Virgin Media Business VOOM competition via a competitor of ours and realised that we should get involved as well. The competition was such a great experience and they were so supportive of companies who were trying to add value and do something worthwhile.
We ate, slept and breathed the competition for a month, but it was worth the effort as we got to the final round and were one of six businesses who got to pitch to Richard Branson. It was very nerve-wracking, but in the end we came second and beat over 4,000 businesses! The investment from Virgin Media Business helped us double our bottling run capacity, which in turn lowered our wholesale/retail price.
You’ve got the juices down, how do you see Rejuce expanding?
We’re trying to grow Rejuce in any way that we can and are speaking to a range of different wholesalers. We currently supply over 200 retailers, but we would love to be stocked in a national supermarket one day. We also want to make more cider and even toilet paper from pulp, but we’re focusing on the juice first.
A third of the world’s food output is lost or wasted between the time it is produced and the time it’s consumed. It’s our aim to use all food waste from the farms we work with. So far, farms and packaging plants have reduced their food waste levels by 75% since working with us; this equates to 300 tonnes. But there is always more we can do!
What advice or tips do you have for people that are looking to reduce food waste at home?
Avoid processed food. A lot of food waste comes from the industrial and commercial production of food. Using raw materials to make foods yourself, e.g. sauces, means there will be less food waste than if they’re made by big companies. For example, rather than throwing away the ends of vegetables and peels, save them and make stock with the leftovers. It will be about 10 times better than any stock cube and reduce your food waste.
Buy products that use food waste. Buy Rejuce! We make it so easy for you to help reduce food waste. On a serious note, there are many businesses, like Rubies in the Rubble, that make products from food waste, so take the time to do your research online and find products that work best for you and fit your lifestyle.
Bulk cook food or even swap food with your friends to keep it interesting. Cook lots of food in one go and freeze different portions. This will save you time in the long run. Admittedly, it can get boring eating the same dish all week, so you could make an agreement with friends or colleagues to do a lunch swap every now and then to add a bit of mystery to your lunch break. Last but certainly not least, invest in Tupperware. Having plenty of Tupperware around the house means that you won’t need to throw away any leftovers, which you can then stick in the fridge or freezer for a later date.
Describe your perfect day in London
During the summer, London is one of my favourite places to be. So my perfect day would definitely be when the weather is warmer and the evenings are lighter! It would probably involve a long walk around where I live in Hackney with a picnic and a bit of touch rugby with some friends. Dinner in the evening followed by a trip to an open-air cinema, maybe at somewhere like Rooftop Film Club or Luna Cinema. There’s always so much going on in London, I’m lucky to live where I do.