Food waste accounts for roughly half of all household waste in Australia, with 3.2 million tonnes of edible food going to landfill each year when it could be returning nutrients to soil in the form of compost.
ShareWaste is closing the food loop by empowering people to cycle organic material in their local community.
The company's hyper-local sharing model has expanded across the globe, with users in the US, UK and New Zealand.
Composting in your local community? There's an app for that! It's called ShareWaste and it is the brainchild of Sydney-based husband-and-wife duo Eli Bramborova and Tomas Brambora. The application builds composting networks in communities by connecting users with excess organic waste to composters in their local area. Its easy-to-use interface is bringing community composting into the 21st Century and helping to regenerate soil in the process. With over 110,000 registered members around the globe, the company has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings in the Sydney suburb of Newtown.
We sat down with ShareWaste founder and keen composter Eli Bramborova to talk about her journey so far and what's next for the project.
"ShareWaste brings people together to help them recycle organic material into new soil. We are the first and biggest free global platform that started using modern technologies to connect people and help them turn more organic matter into new soil.
In Australia, around 50 per cent of all organic material ends up in landfill. Moreover, a great amount of contamination in paper recycling comes from items that are home compostable. Composting is the easiest, most cost-effective and the most natural way of recycling organic material — we’re raising awareness about this and encouraging people to start thinking differently about their waste. We are also 100 per cent volunteer-run."
"The current western culture of buying only to dispose of is very dangerous; it is polluting our environment and wasting important resources. We should be better guardians of our planet, protect our land and look for sustainable and regenerative ways to use its resources.
Organic material has been a long-overlooked resource and we are working on changing this. We are helping people to close their food loop using the social capital and resources present in their community."
"Organic material is still perceived as waste, rather than a resource. Its management costs Australia large sums of money and most of it still ends its life in landfill where it contributes to greenhouse gas production thus worsening climate change. At the same time, when we grow crops and don’t return nutrients to the soil in the form of compost, the quality of the soil deteriorates and we must then use toxic chemical fertilisers to restore its productivity. These fertilisers have a devastating impact on the organisms living in the soil and also on the whole food chain, which includes people."
"We are bringing people together to restore their lost connection to soil and one another. Our app is a tool that makes this happen easily in a global and online-dominated world. We use modern online tools to effect change in the physical world."
"Our goal was to create an online app that would connect ‘supply’ with ‘demand’ when it comes to composting. We knew we needed to develop the app and promote the idea. Fortunately, Tomas is a web developer by trade, so we had the technical side of things covered. Which means it was mostly up to me to figure out how to best promote the app, and I learnt all the relevant skills on the fly.
Anybody can register if they wish to either donate or receive organic material, such as food scraps, but also farm animal manure or garden waste. The compost hosts are usually gardeners, farmers, small businesses and community places — anybody who has the capacity to process more organic material than they produce themselves and who can make use of the finished compost or the new community connections.
The majority of our donors are apartment dwellers but also people who temporarily can’t compost or are up to their composting capacity. People who compost at home, either with ShareWaste or otherwise, also look for a composting solution on their travels and ShareWaste can help them find a composter anywhere they are. Van dwelling has gained more popularity and we help people without an actual house live up to their environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
Community gardens, city farms and other community places can register as compost hosts on the map and start accepting organic matter from the community. At the moment, we have over 600 community gardens registered on ShareWaste. Many organisations and other initiatives have also reached out to us regarding partnerships or asking for help around composting, starting their own project or designing an app.
We'd like to get to a million registered members as the next step. Our goal is to show everyone that what we often treat as waste is in fact a valuable resource that can (and should!) be used again in our gardens, on our farms, green verges and elsewhere. We also want to demonstrate that community composting is the best way to make the most out of this incredible resource.
Food and organic waste collection can be the right solution for large businesses or places that can't compost themselves, such as hospitals. But it's probably the worst out of the good options we have for households and community places. I believe authorities should focus on educating the communities and providing them with tools, incentives and resources to manage their organics themselves, locally and at a smaller scale. It will benefit our environment and the positive impact on communities would be immeasurable.
"One of the biggest benefits has been the social aspect of the app. We created it with the intention to help locals meet each other, but it exceeded our expectations in many ways. Many people have found new friends through ShareWaste and generally connected more with other people from their community.
ShareWaste is now being used in 105 countries and we have over 110,000 registered members. As the network kept growing, people naturally started registering as compost hosts or donors outside of ShareWaste’s birthplace in Newtown, Sydney. After Australia, ShareWaste communities soon started developing in New Zealand, UK, US and even many non-English speaking countries. The activity of the network in each area very much depends on the general interest and pro-environmental orientation of the local people and their efforts to spread the word about the app in their community.
The ShareWaste app includes a simple Impact Tracker tool that our users can use to record how much they have contributed/accepted. According to our estimates, our users worldwide donated roughly 600,000 kilograms of organic material in 2021 alone. That’s roughly a hundred African elephants worth of scraps saved from landfill in a year.
As founders, we have been invited to dozens of radio shows, webinars, festivals and other educational and sustainability events. In 2018, we welcomed the Gardening Australia team to our little apartment and were featured on the show. Since starting the platform, our family alone has returned more than a tonne of nutritious organic matter back to local gardens, which was our original motivation to start ShareWaste, and met with hundreds of amazing people across Australia and beyond."
"Join us to help return nutritious organic matter back into soil. Register on our free app to connect with your community and start making more soil or feeding farm animals while reducing the impacts of climate change."